A Manitoba soccer legend was honoured this past weekend.
On Sunday, the Winnipeg Soccer Complex at 900 Waverly St. was officially renamed the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex.
photos by MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Ralph Cantafio Sr. prepares to cut a soccer net to officially rename the Winnipeg Waverley Soccer Complex to the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex in his honour Sunday morning. He is flanked by Winnipeg City Councillor Mike Pagtakhan (left) and Matthew Duffy with the Winnipeg Soccer Federation.
Ralph Cantafio Sr. gives a speech during a ceremony to rename the Winnipeg Waverley Soccer Complex to the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex in his honour Sunday morning.
Cantafio Sr. was surrounded by dozens of friends, family and members of the soccer community at the ceremony Sunday morning. Officials from both the City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Soccer Federation were in attendance, including deputy mayor Mike Pagtakhan and Winnipeg Soccer Federation chairman Matthew Duffy.
Cantafio Sr. was born in Amato, Italy, and moved to Winnipeg in 1950, according to the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. Soccer was always a part of his father’s life, said his son, Ralph Cantafio Jr. "When you’re Italian and you grow up in the south of Italy, it’s kind of part of your fibre," he said, adding that it’s "an absolute passion."
Cantafio Sr.’s "absolute passion" for the beautiful game has been passed down to his son and grandson. "Parents have something that they give, and their kids kind of embrace that same love and attention and passion," said Cantafio Jr. "It filters down."
The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame said Cantafio Sr. helped found Winnipeg’s former professional soccer team, the Winnipeg Fury, in 1987 and was a driving force behind the development of the Winnipeg Soccer Complex. He was also inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. Many wiped away tears as Cantafio Sr. spoke to the crowd: "I am happy that I have contributed... to this community that I love so much," he said.
The news of the complex’s new name came as a shock to his father, said Cantafio Jr. "He doesn’t know how to react," said Cantafio Jr. "He doesn’t like to bring attention to himself — never has. But in the same regard, it’s always nice to be noticed, thanked and embraced for what you’ve done."
He described his father as someone who has "always been about getting things done."
"He’s super dignified, very honest, and is always putting the game and others’ needs ahead of himself."
Cantafio Jr. said the ceremony was quite moving, especially considering how many people turned up in spite of the wet weather.
After the ceremony, a Manitoba Major Soccer League game was held between Kildonan and the World Soccer Academy. Cantafio Sr. was named honourary coach of the World Soccer Academy, a team already coached by Cantafio Jr. His grandson, Nicholas, plays on the team and ended up scoring the game-winning goal, bringing the final score to 1-0.
"How much more can you ask for?" said Cantafio Jr.