Some have dubbed them the odd couple of the Sudbury soccer scene. You’re not going to get any argument from this corner. While Lloyd Rebeiro and John Sikora could not have come from more vastly contrasting backgrounds, their 29 year partnership at St Charles College produced no less than 20 SDSSAA banners. The story below is the first in a two-part look at a pair of individuals whose prominence in the sport locally was a bi-product of a special relationship that extended from the soccer pitch and beyond.
Lloyd Rebeiro and John Sikora were hired to teach at St Charles College roughly six months apart. Both were avid soccer fans. This is what they had in common.
But where Sikora was a born and bred Sudburian, a young teacher whose soccer resume featured time spent in a local men’s league which came just after the golden age of the sport locally, Rebeiro was forging a pathway half a world away.
Both Rebeiro and his sister were born in Tanzania, with the family located in the bustling port city of Dar es Salaam. His two older brothers were both born in neighbouring Kenya. His father, an employee of Shell Oil, was a native of India who had worked in Kuwait before making his way to Africa to find a bride, a young woman living in Nairobi.
Is it any wonder that Rebeiro enjoys a deeply rooted love of the entire travelling experience?
Well, a love of travel and soccer, of course.
“The way that kids play hockey at rinks here throughout the winter, that’s what we did with soccer,” said the 62 year old father of four. “There were unbelievable games that would go on at these dirt fields, fields lined with shirts in the four corners. You didn’t need a referee. You played on the streets until the sun went down.”
Sensing a concern for the future of his nation in a part of the world that is so often torn apart by corruption and war, Rebeiro’s father would do well enough through the ownership of a trucking company to move the entire crew to Canada (Peterborough, more specifically) in 1975, following a short stay in the United Kingdom.
Lloyd was just 14 or so at the time. As he began his studies at Crestwood Secondary School, the outgoing teen would come across teacher and soccer coach Robert Gordon, one of those individuals you just dream of encountering if you have a passion for sport. “He would get up at 6:00 a.m. and start picking up every member of the soccer team,” said Rebeiro.
“We would practice in the morning. I learned so much from that guy. A lot of what I did as a coach were his ideas.”
Rebeiro may have been a student of the game, but truth be told, he was a student, at heart, first and foremost. Attending Queen’s University, he would complete his undergraduate degree in biology, vaulting directly into his masters at the same institution. It was during this time that he would realize his true calling, one where he could combine his love of soccer with an interest in the classroom setting.
“I taught a course as part of my masters and just loved it so much,” he said. “It may sound corny, but I really just wanted to prove that the colour of my skin did not matter, that I was just like anybody else.” Perhaps, though many might contend that the character that is Lloyd Rebeiro is actually quite unique, in a wonderfully enjoyable way.
Consider his recollection of the events of the summer of 1987, having just completed his Bachelor of Education and still living in Kingston. “My wife told me that I needed to apply for a job,” said Rebeiro with a smile, the couple having welcomed the birth of their first daughter by then.
“You talk about fate. I happened to grab a copy of the Globe & Mail and there’s an ad for a senior biology specialist needed at St Charles College. I called up that day, made an appointment for the next day, and got a speeding ticket on my way up. I wanted to go and visit the school, which was in Garson at the time (now Northeastern Public School).”
“I quickly scouted the trophy case, noticed no soccer trophies and promised one within two years at my interview that day.”
Rebeiro might well enjoy a belief in his abilities as a coach, but he is also the first to suggest that he walked into just the right situation. “I didn’t know any of this at the time, but when I walked into St Charles, I had pretty much the whole Sudbury Hawks team at our school,” he said.
And he was about to meet his new partner in crime.
“At my first practice, there’s a guy sitting on the portable steps, watching my practice. That guy was John Sikora.” Though not yet hired on at the school, Sikora was deeply immersed in the local soccer community, more than a little aware of exactly how much of the local talent had enrolled at the home of the Cards.
In 1988, St Charles would sweep both the junior and senior boys soccer crowns. They would do it again in 1990 and 1991. This new partnership was rapidly paying dividends.
“It was like a ying and a yang,” Rebeiro acknowledged. “John was the soccer guru. He knew everything about soccer. I was the organizer. I could work on road trips and tournaments, things like that, because he didn’t want to do any of that paperwork. He just wanted to coach.”
Where soccer can be a seasonal endeavour at the high-school level, the Rebeiro-Sikora combo worked literally year round. From the time that St Charles made the move to their latest location on Falconbridge Road came the opportunity to offer winter indoor soccer through a three gymnasium set-up, a site blessed with a mezzanine allowing for a wonderful view for fans of the games.
Later, those soccer leagues would move to the Sudbury Indoor Soccer Centre, just around the corner. Through all of this, the teacher tandem apparently still had not gotten their fill of each other, adding off-season vacation trips to Europe and Vietnam and other exotic destinations, and again offering the chance, from time to time, to marry travel with soccer.
“We visited Wembley Stadium, and took in English Premier League games,” said Rebeiro. “Those fans don’t stop; they get so riled up. Each game is a huge event. And then you have the Vietnamese people, such a beautiful country with beautiful people. They want so much for you to come into their home and show you how they live.”
From the rural landscapes of Vietnam to the mecca of London soccer, the contrasts are evident - every bit as evident as the friendship that binds Lloyd Rebeiro and John Sikora, a friendship that has left an indelible footprint on the landscape of Sudbury soccer.