Near-miss still haunts soccer great

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:04 PM ET

More than 25 years after Canada just missed getting to the 1982 World Cup, Mike Stojanovic can't get the crucial qualifier against Cuba out of his mind.

"I wake up at night a few times still thinking about how we didn't get that one goal we needed," Stojanovic said yesterday, as he and the 2009 class of the Canadian Soccer Hall Of Fame were honoured at BMO Field. "There were some strange things going on. Branko Segota and I were scoring early in the qualifying, but not the end."

Canada settled for a 2-2 draw against the Cubans, when another goal or even a 3-3 tie would have sent them to Spain. Canada did get the job done in 1986 to make it to Mexico, but failed to score in three losses.

With all due respect, Stojanovic felt the '82 team could have done better that particular year.

Stojanovic came to Toronto from the former Yugoslavia in the early 1970s, joining the Serbian White Eagles of the National Soccer League. He had 52 goals in 1974 (still a league record) and joined the North American Soccer League, where he had 83 goals in 180 games with three teams and was voted North American player of the year in 1981 with the San Diego Sockers.

"I was fighting players like Giorgio Chinaglia and Steve David (for the league lead)," he recalled. "Reporters down there would ask: 'Who is this guy?' and I would say: 'This guy is from Canada.' "

Also honoured yesterday were the '86 national team, players Neil Ellett, John Limniatis and Joan McEachern, builders Derek Wisdom and Bob Sawtell, journalist Colin Jose and pioneer Ted Slade.

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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