WINNIPEG – Riccardo De Thomasis’ name will live on in Winnipeg in more ways than one.
The beloved soccer coach, who was instrumental in growing the sport of soccer in Winnipeg, lost a three-year battle with cancer in April.
On Friday, the city renamed Ashworth Park in south St. Vital Riccardo De Thomasis Park.
“He would be humble about it,” said Enrico De Thomasis, Riccardo’s brother. “He was a very modest guy but he would be proud.”
Riccardo coached Winnipeg’s under-14 South End United boys last year. It was one of the worst teams in its league in 2011. Under Riccardo’s leadership, the team went all the way to nationals and finished fourth.
“Even though nationals was pretty hard for him, because his cancer came back and all, he still showed us how much he could care for us and tried his best to coach us and win that trophy,” said Luke Chafe, who played on the team.
De Thomasis kept coaching all through his battle with cancer.
“When he was sick, he struggled just to make it to his doctors’ appointments,” said Enrico. “Come soccer, he was up on his feet, pushed himself, was on the field in crutches and gave it his all.”
Riccardo was recognized as a Coach of the Month on Global Winnipeg in September 2012.
At the time, he said soccer was a way to forget about cancer.
“Coaching for me has always been a passion but is now my Number 1 passion,” De Thomasis said. “The alternative for me is to be at home lying in a bed.”
He always looked on the bright side.
“I beat it once and I will continue to try to beat it again,” De Thomasis said in 2012.
The park isn’t the only thing to bear his name. The Winnipeg Indoor Mini Soccer League he started 20 years ago is now called the RDT Indoor Mini Soccer League.
His brother has taken over running it. Around 400 children are registered this season.
“This program meant everything to him,” said Enrico De Thomasis. “He started with 15 kids and built it up. This is what he said he lived for.”
Even though he died, his passion for soccer will continue to be passed on to future players.