Building a future for soccer in Brant
Local enthusiasts make pitch for return of Brantford GalaxyUpdated Tuesday February 3, 2015 by Sean Allen, Brant News.
Tomo Dancetovic has a vision for the children of Brant who fall in love with the world’s most popular sport.
He wants young soccer players to be able to stay in Brant, get professional training locally, play on highly-competitive teams with their local peers and perhaps even play professional soccer in front of their family, friends and neighbours on a local club.
Dancetovic was a big part of trying to realize that dream when the Brantford Galaxy came to town in 2010. He threw himself into assisting the Hamilton-based owners of the professional team as they attempted to build an organization with roots down to the youth levels. He was assistant coach and coach depending on the needs of the pro team.
The dream, for a number of reasons, died when the team went on hiatus following the 2012 season. The bottom line is that the ownership never really did get the support of the local soccer clubs it needed.
With Brantford’s rights for a Canadian Soccer League franchise due to expire if the team didn’t return for the 2015 season, Dancetovic is rallying the local soccer community to try to achieve his dream once again.
He leased the name and franchise rights from the old ownership and has been granted the chance to resurrect the Brantford Galaxy team to compete in the CSL’s first division this season.
He has former Galaxy volunteers Andrew Pilkington and Jim Turnbull on board, but that inner circle is looking to quickly grow its numbers and earn the support required to field a team.
“I believe it can work here and we need it,” Dancetovic said of the professional club. “Looking back at all the kids who have played by travelling to other cities – to Hamilton or Toronto – I know we can do all that training here in Brantford.
"That’s been my goal even going back before the Galaxy first came here."
But the ultimate vision goes much deeper than simply fielding a pro team. Dancetovic laments the migration of talented local youth to play soccer in Burlington, Hamilton or Toronto once they reach a certain level of skill.
He laments it, but he understands it. His son, Stefan, was forced to travel to Toronto once his skills surpassed playing in Brantford. Though Stefan was also lucky to get a chance to play with the Brantford Galaxy while they were here.
Dancetovic wants youth from all the local clubs who stand out to have a chance to come together on a feeder team in the Canadian Academy of Football. The CAF was created by the CSL as a development system and supports entries at different levels from under-23 down through an under-9 program.
Whether players are registered with the Brantford City Soccer Club, Brantford Galaxy Youth Soccer Club, Paris Football Club, Brant County Recreational Soccer or Twin Rivers Soccer – Dancetovic wants all the clubs to participate in the Galaxy organization and structure.
He said there are an estimated 10,000 registered soccer players from youth to adult in Brantford and the County of Brant.
The first step toward his vision is a meeting on Saturday, beginning at 2:30 p.m., at the Brantford Sports Xcelerator Centre, 101 Wayne Gretzky Parkway.
Dancetovic has invited representatives of all the local soccer clubs and anyone who is a fan of developing the sport to come attend the meeting.
“This is an opportunity for all of Brant,” he said. “If they want to see their kids play here, we need them to come out."
Pilkington, who volunteered a lot of his time with the previous Galaxy franchise, said this is probably the area’s last kick at the can to get its soccer structure in place to best benefit the youth.
“(Dancetovic) has been granted the use of the Galaxy name and membership in the CSL to try this,” Pilkington said. “But this is likely our last chance to make this work. It’s really up to the people of this community to get behind this."
After the Galaxy folded in 2012, Dancetovic coached the CSL’s London City franchise for the past two seasons. He will leave that post to come home to Brantford and guide the Galaxy once again.
But Dancetovic maintained his contacts and connection with the players in the CSL and that will help as he tries to build a competitive team with a near-zero budget.
If all goes well at Saturday’s meeting, the next step will be some local tryouts for players in February and March. Depending on what type of talent pool comes out, Dancetovic said he will build the professional club around the local players.