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The many soccer sides of Hall of Famer Mario Anselmo

Attempting to slot Mario Anselmo into one particular bracket within the spectrum of local soccer is no easy task.

From player to coach, administrator and fan of the game, the 70 year old has pretty much done it all. It was this life of soccer that was celebrated, in June, when Anselmo was inducted into the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame.

Though soccer was almost always in the mix, right from his younger days, Anselmo was also active in track and field during his time at St Charles College, an era when the opportunity to pursue his primary sport within the ranks of the local secondary schools system simply did not exist. There was no high school soccer, back in the day.

In fact, just finding a team, at that time, was no easy feat. "When I was seventeen, I played with the Polish White Eagles," recalled Anselmo. "There were a few teens on our team, we were very young. I tried going to play for the (Italia) Flyers, but they thought I was too small."

Within a year or two, Anselmo would work his way into the Flyers' lineup, balancing his schedule there with a national championship run, in 1971, as a member of the Laurentian Voyageurs men's soccer team.

"We weren't touted to win anything," suggested Anselmo. "We used to do everything together at L.U., we were very close as a team and everybody knew their role. We had guys that were really not that good soccer players, but we had guys that played semi-pro."

A regular in the local men's league through the 1970's, and spending some time with the Sudbury Cyclones, the playing days for Anselmo would eventually give way to a shift to more coaching, diving in, in earnest, in 1980-81-82 when his son (David) would pick up the sport.

It remained a family affair, for a while, as Anselmo later coached his daughter (Lianne) and the Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes girls team in the 1990s. It was a gig he would continue until he finally stepped away, for good, in 2015.

"I spent a lot more time coaching than I ever did playing," said Anselmo, though he continued to compete in the occasional outing until his knees were replaced. "It was worthwhile to work with the young kids who were enthusiastic about playing, trying to teach them a little."

"There were a few with a lot of natural talent, but we had a lot of kids from house league that lacked a lot of the technical aspect of the game." For those looking in from the outside, Anselmo can be seen as something of a taskmaster, an bi-product of his passion for the sport, and his desire to see it played properly.

"If you did drills, you should do them with both feet," he said. "It didn't bother me if you couldn't do it, just try it. If you never try it, you're never going to learn." Beneath a gruff exterior, a softer coach shines through.

"I never really yelled at the girls, not in the way that I would give them heck or anything like that," he stated. "But if I was able to influence young players that I coached, whether in a men's league, or little kids, or boys or girls in high school, still seeing those kids around, to me, that's more important than anything else."

Still, Anselmo is not one to hold back when queried on the current state of soccer in Sudbury. "The passion is not there like it used to be," he stated frankly. "There is always that small group that really wants it. In Sudbury, we're never going to get anything done until we work together as one large group."

There are many sides to Mario Anselmo. The bulk of them, however, all seem to involve soccer.

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