Salvadoran Javier Centi, seen here completing a bicycle kick, is part of the multi-cultural flavour of the Inspire. (FILE PHOTO)
Based on their practice habits, members of the Pizza Express Inspire Football Club appear to be taking their big promotion in the Manitoba Major Soccer League quite seriously.
After winning the eighth division last season, the Inspire has moved all the way up to the league’s second-highest level — the Premier 2 Division — for this season, which starts today when the Brandon-based club heads to Winnipeg to take on Dynamo FC.
"In previous years, out of 20 guys, you normally would get 12, 13 (players) consistently coming to practice and this season we’re (getting) about 17 to 20 regularly for practices," said Inspire co-founder Taso Spiropolous, who is also a defender on the team.
"We started at the end of January, practising outdoors at the Crocus (Plains) field, so right there that shows some pretty good commitment. … (With) a couple of shovels, we’d clear off a 40- by 40-yard square and then we would practise."
Normally, the club’s title last season would have entitled them to move up one division for this summer. But when Winnipeg-based club Roma was relegated from Premier 1 to Premier 2, they put up notice that their franchise would go up for sale and the Inspire jumped at the opportunity, gobbling up the available team and its spot.
Spiropolous said it’s all part of the players’ desire to reach the highest possible level as both individuals and as a team.
"We need a high level men’s soccer program in Brandon," said Spiropolous, who believes the team will be competitive in Premier 2.
"We have a huge community, our team’s spread out kind of evenly throughout all the different cultural groups of Brandon and we need a place for the serious players to play."
With players born in six different countries, Spiropolous said the team is trying to turn one of their biggest challenges into one of their strengths.
"Each group has a distinct character of play," he said. "… We’ve kind of split the team almost 50/50 between the groups to give us more depth. So with a little bit of scouting, watching the other teams play in Winnipeg, we can kinda discover what we’re going to need for each session. So we may focus more on a possession game, i.e. the Latino-type players, or we may need to focus more on the attacking, physical level and that’s where the European and Canadian players will come into play."
Another new twist for the Inspire this season is that the club will actually be able to play some home games close to home. The club used Portage la Prairie for its home games last season due to a league rule limiting how far games can be played from Winnipeg, but this year a couple of games (on May 27 and June 24) will be held in Shilo.
"If we make a good impression, we get a decent crowd coming out and the teams are well looked after, we may look at more games (in Shilo) in the future, but right now that’s fantastic," Spiropolous said. "It’s against (MMSL) rules to play outside 120 kilometres from the perimeter, so for them to give us this is actually a very generous step on their part."
Player Age Country of birth
Daniel Harrison 23 Canada
Eder Torres 21 El Salvador
Taso Spiropolous 30 Canada
Adam Rocan 20 Canada
Bryan Penner 18 Canada
Waldo Centi 21 El Salvador
James Dewdney 28 England
Max Vasquez 23 Honduras
Tony Vasilarakis 24 Canada
Igor Lytvynyuk 30 Ukraine
Carlos Ortiz 29 Mexico
Osian Edwards 17 Canada
Mathew Fraser 18 Canada
Andriy Trokhym 21 Ukraine
Chase Critchlow 21 Canada
Henry Martinez 25 Honduras
Vitaliy Bernatskyy 26 Ukraine
Vasilios Giannopoulos 21 Canada
Javier Centi 24 El Salvador
Taylor Blue 18 Canada
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 28, 2012