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Soccer star Deni set for Sports Hall of Fame

Playing in an era when soccer in Sudbury was arguably at a peak, few local stars shone brighter than Italian born immigrant Ferruccio Deni. The talented scorer will join eight other individuals as well as teammates from the 1964 Italia Flyers soccer club in being inducted into the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame in early June.

Born in Piran and moving to Trieste at the age of seven, Deni excelled initially as a defender in soccer, sharing the hopes of many of his young schoolmates at the time.

"I always loved the game, as every young Italian boy," he said at a reception last week at Eddie's Restaurant. "You dream always that one day, you will make the First Division team."

And that dream grew nearer for Deni when, at the age of 16, he was drafted by A.C. Milan to play for their junior team in 1960, just one year after Deni was named to a regional all-star team.

But in May of 1960, Deni and his family moved to Canada, searching for a brighter future. In the case of the talented footballer, his skill set was quickly recognized in his new home.

"When I came to Chatham, they had nobody that could play forward and score goals, so they moved me to forward," explained Deni. "As a forward, there are rewards in scoring goals, but the team needs to play for you."

In 1962, the Sudbury Italia Flyers travelled to southwestern Ontario, attempting to lure the 18 year-old Deni north. "In the 1960's and 1970's, we had a lot of great young players that came up in Sudbury," said Deni.

"We would look to the senior leagues, that had great players who came from Europe and other countries." Deni would become an instant success in Sudbury, leading the Flyers to league championships in three straight years and earning MVP and scoring titles along the way.

But it was 1964 that would prove most memorable, as the Flyers survived a double overtime contest in Montreal, earning a 2-2 draw with just nine players and forcing a rematch at home.

"I remember the 1964 game that we played Montreal (St Paul's Rovers)," said Deni. "We had a couple of thousand people or more (at Queen's Athletic Field). Even before the game, the enthusiasm and support that we were getting from our fans was unbelievable."

The Flyers won easily, capturing the Eastern Canadian Championship and earning a berth in the national finals in Vancouver. "I remember enjoying the travelling and seeing places that otherwise I would never see," said Deni.

"And the great people I met during my career - not only my teammates, but management, media, everyone that was involved with soccer. For me, it's something I will never forget."

Deni would continue to excel with the Flyers, leading the National Soccer League in scoring on two occasions between 1965 and 1970. He continued to play locally through untilt he late 1970's, eventually turning to the coaching ranks and leading the Flyers to the Northern Ontario finals.

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