WINNIPEG — His name is Ralph Cantafio.
But he’s better known as the father of modern soccer.
“I always dreamt that this city deserved better,” said Cantafio.
The 87-year-old is responsible for making the beautiful game score in Winnipeg. He not only launched leagues and clubs but was also a key player in having the outdoor Winnipeg Soccer Complex on Waverley Street built.
“This is something that was bigger than what we had,” said Cantafio. “Which today is something worthwhile for the future of the city and kids.”
In the late eighties, Cantafio founded the Winnipeg Fury – the province’s first professional soccer club. In 1992, the team captured the Canadian Soccer League title.
“The principal of me to do the professional soccer team was for the benefit of the city and province,” said Cantafio.
For his work in helping to make soccer successful, Cantafio was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame as a builder in 2004. He’s also been honoured with awards from both the provincial and national soccer organizations. But the recognition doesn’t stop there.
The City of Winnipeg has given the green light for the Winnipeg Soccer Complex to be renamed after Contafio. It’s a process originally kick-started by the Winnipeg Soccer Federation.
“Ralph has been a spirit that has moved soccer,” said board member Sean Drain. “He’s an inspiration to all. His work, his congeniality and his welcoming people into the game.”
The move to switch signs is one Cantafio says he never expected.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Cantafio. “For me to understand, as little as I am, I did it.”