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Panhellenic tournament back for at least one more year

Only time will tell if 2011 provides the swan song for the Panhellenic Soccer Tournament - but for at least one more year, the region will be abuzz with competitive youth soccer teams at the end of July.

This year's edition of the tournament features a total of 63 teams, with a solid contingent from northern Ontario as well as several of the "regulars" from south of Barrie.

As well, the bulk of the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC) teams are taking full advantage of the local opportunity to enjoy an event on their home turf. Yet, therein lies part of the concern regarding the future of the tournament.

With the implementation of the one-club youth competitive soccer system in Sudbury, seven former groups which ran boys and girls rep teams successfully for many years, were required to give up control for the common good - including Panhellenic.

"We had to convince people to do the tournament one more year and let's see where things go from there," said long-time organizer Fabio Belli. "It was actually very difficult."

Yet there is no doubt that the passionate soccer enthusiast, involved with the tournament since the get-go, looks forward to seeing it return year after year.

"I'm hoping the tournament continues from here in," Belli said. "When you can bring the competition to the community, it gives our local kids the opportunity to develop."

First established in 1998, the three-day soccer bonanza has built a solid reputation with teams across the province, allowing both Sudbury teams as well as squads from North Bay, Timmins, Sault Ste Marie, Valley East and Rouyn Noranda to battle with crews from Barrie, Gloucester, Bradford, Newmarket, Orillia, Milton, Paris, St Catherines and Ramara.

"Hitting the target of one hundred teams three years ago was special," Belli said. "That's why I don't want to see it die. We have to get more volunteers involved for it to be successful."

Of course, the local youngsters who benefit from the chance to perform in front of family and friends are equally on board, looking for the tournament to thrive for another twenty, thirty years or more.

Hunter Adams is the goalkeeper with the Greater Sudbury Impact U12 boys, one of eight regional teams being exposed to provincial level talent via the CSL (Central Soccer League) or CGSL (Central Girls Soccer League) this summer.

His team has hosted the likes of Oshawa and Unionville already at the James Jerome Sports Complex, though Adams prefers the more northern of the two pitches at the Paris Street venue.

"I like the turf a little bit better, because it's not as rough," said the second year keeper. "The turf is easier to play on, because the grass has more lumps and stuff."

Originally stepping in to help out his teammates in net at a tournament in Toronto two years ago, Adams has taken a liking to the position, now spending time honing his skills trying to defend.

"Good positioning, good ball control, and always being vocal with your players - those are the keys," Adams said. The Impact should get a solid measure as to just how much their play has improved against the tougher southern Ontario opponents, facing both North Bay and Timmins in pool play a week from Saturday.

The tournament, with headquarters at Cambrian College this year in order to accomodate Les Jeux de la Francophonie, begins on (Friday) July 22nd, with eight fields on the go right through until late Sunday afternoon.

Proceeds from the 2011 event are being directed to the Sam Bruno PET scan Foundation.

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