Manitoba's 'father of modern soccer' to be honoured Sunday
Popular soccer complex changing its name in honour of Ralph Cantafio
Ralph Cantafio has spent more than six decades working to make Winnipeg a soccer city and on Sunday, he'll be honoured when a soccer complex is named after him.
The Waverley Soccer Complex is changing its name to the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex to honour Cantafio, 87.
Cantafio founded the Winnipeg Fury and is credited with inspiring generations of soccer players, during a time when soccer wasn't popular.
"The phrase that we've used is that he was the father of modern soccer in Manitoba," said Sean Drain, a board member with the Winnipeg Soccer Federation.
Drain said Cantafio worked tirelessly over the years to increase soccer visibility in the province.
"Just about everything soccer, Ralph was involved in some capacity," Drain said.
'I loved the game'
After immigrating to Canada from Italy in 1950, Cantafio founded several leagues and clubs. When he wasn't coaching, he was cutting grass on the field or greeting fans.
The Winnipeg Fury was Winnipeg's first professional soccer team and shook up the Canadian soccer scene when it won the Mita Cup in 1992.
Cantafio said he never expected to get recognition for his work over the years. "I did it because I loved the game," he said.
And Sunday won't be the first time Cantafio's been honoured.
In 2004, he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, but he said having a complex named after him feels different. "I'm a little bit nervous, and I hope that I come through," he said.
Cantafio said he wanted to thank the people of Winnipeg and hopes someone else will volunteer to continue his legacy in the soccer community one day.
"I see a road, a little highway, and I leave that little piece of highway for someone else to continue," he said.
The Waverley Soccer Complex will be officially renamed this Sunday, June 12 at 10:30 a.m. CT.