In 2007, the Club celebrated it 40th birthday! Members of the Club that had played in the Club since its inception, organized a celebratory event – it was called “Almonte Soccer Club – 40 Years”. On the day of the celebration there was a game for the old-timers of past and present, and at the end of the game, a bar-b-q and presentation was held. The following is the presentation made by Mr. Len Shaw (Past-President) on behalf of the Club.
Playing soccer in Almonte is not a recent development. This report in the Ottawa Journal on November 15, 1901, shows that soccer, or as it was called then, and is still in Britain, Association Football, has been played for more than a century right here in Almonte.
Almonte, Nov. – A game of Association Football was played here Saturday afternoon between the High School team and a team from the school of Carleton Place. The visitors were defeated after a good contest by 1 to 0. The game was a fair exhibition and was well contested and interesting. This was a return match, the locals having journeyed to Carleton Place two weeks ago, where they played the same team.
— Ottawa Journal, November 15, 1901
What is interesting about this 1901 report, is the fact that the real origin of Almonte soccer and the Almonte Soccer Club was from the school system. Then, 64 years later, in 1965, the Almonte & District High School (ADHS) formed a team that played five exhibition games against Ottawa high schools. Their best result was a tie with Eastview, captained by Morris Sonnenburg. The High School team continued, and in 1967 it won the South Mountain Tournament and joined a new Lanark league with Perth and Smith Falls.
In 1968 Carleton Place joined this new school league. Almonte won the championship for the first time that year. The school won the championship again in 1970, and also initiated the first EOSSA soccer tournament, which was held that same year in Almonte. The following year they won EOSSA and went on to Aurora to play in OFSSA.
There are two items of note here. Firstly, the Coach of the team is George Nightingale; and secondly, the team uniform is the very familiar green and white stripe. They were actually the school colours and the soccer team wore them for a few years until a player convinced the coach that they should play in the more well known orange and black.
With the success of the senior team, and the growing interest in “football”, a junior High School team was formed in 1973 under Coach Jim Blair. Jim had been involved with the senior team for many years. Two years later, in the centennial year of ADHS, the team won the championship.
Now back in 1967, 40 years ago, soccer moved out of the school into the community. Just like Rangers and Celtic, and Liverpool and Everton, one catholic and one protestant team was formed, with the boys from St. Mary’s and the boys from G.L. Comba. Apart from the very small Church Street School, there were only two schools in Almonte at that time.
These two soccer teams played at the under-14 level in a division with two Carleton Place teams. Bill Harris who lived in Carleton Place obtained permission from the Canadian Soccer Association to form the Canadian Schoolboy Soccer Association. From his employer, Leigh Instruments, Bill obtained sponsorship in the form of shirts and a cup. It was at this time that Bill approached Almonte High School for assistance and George Nightingale and Jim became involved.
They offered their help in administration and refereeing, and recruited senior school players, like Lyn Royce, shown below with the St. Mary’s or the Almonte A-team, as it was called in 1967.
In that first year, St. Mary’s won the Almonte/Carleton Place division. They then played against the winner of another four team division based in Ottawa to win the Leigh Challenge Trophy, as can be seen in the photograph.
How did soccer evolve in Almonte over the last 40 years? The table below identifies significant events over the years.
|1967||First 2 Almonte Teams (Canadian Schoolboy Soccer Association)|
|1968||Ottawa School Boys League (OSBL) formed (Almonte a founding
club) 1 Team in Ottawa School Boys League
|1971||OSBL became Ottawa District Minor Soccer Association Formal
Constitution for Almonte Academicals
|1973||First Senior Team in Ottawa|
|1975||First Senior Team in Lanark League|
|1977||Senior Team Returns to Ottawa|
|1978||EODSA (youth and seniors)|
|1980||First Almonte Teams in Goulbourn House League|
|1982||First Park Soccer (5 & 6 year olds)|
|1985||First Soccer Mums (Over 30)|
|1990||First All Girls Team|
|1992||First Old Timers Team|
The year after Almonte Soccer’s inception, 1968, the two Almonte teams amalgamated into one team as did the two teams in Carleton Place. Almonte joined four Ottawa teams (Rockcliffe, McKellar Park, Lynwood and Crystal Beach) to participate in the newly formed Ottawa School Boys League. In other words, Almonte was one of the founding clubs for soccer in Ottawa.
In 1971, the Ottawa District Minor Soccer Association (ODMSA) was formed out of the School Boys. In the early 70’s, Jim Blair coached the Almonte bantam boys to the Ottawa championship. Also at this time, because his sons were involved, Frank Thomas started an atom-aged team, while Lyn Royce continued to coach the peewee-aged team.
In order to conform to the requirements of ODMSA Almonte adopted a formal constitution around 1971. The official name of the club was the Almonte Academicals and the colours were then, as they remain today, green, white and black.
Back at that time, boys’ and men’s soccer were separate organizations and efforts were made to form a senior team mostly from those players who had graduated from high school. A senior team was entered into the Ottawa league but it folded a couple of years later. A new Almonte senior team was created in 1975 and it became a founding member of the Lanark Soccer League.
In 1978 under the leadership of Mr. Bob Rathwell from Ottawa, the men’s and the youth organizations were amalgamated into the Eastern Ontario District Soccer Association (EODSA).
Now some 40 years on where does Almonte Soccer Club stand? In fact, the 25 or so kids in the first two Almonte teams have grown to 800 girls, boys, women and men in 2007, from ages 4 to 64.
In addition to the growth here in Almonte, it must also be pointed out that the EODSA has also flourished. In 2006 it was reported that Ontario accounts for 45% of all of the soccer playing population in Canada. Ontario is split into 21 district associations and the EODSA ranks 2nd after the Peel Halton Soccer Association. In the 2005 season EODSA registered almost 60,000 players. So as a founding member club Almonte can be proud of its contribution to the development of soccer in the Ottawa district.
Today not only can Almonte kids have a lot of fun learning a sport and developing many of the necessary life skills, some are actually getting their college and university education paid in full or part through scholarships. One player, Russell Shaw, actually played professionally when the Ottawa Wizards had a team hosted at the Oz Dome. Russell is currently earning his living from soccer, and runs Almonte’s camps and clinics in the summers.
How did Almonte get to this solid situation with a game that gives so many recreation, pleasure, and sometimes a little frustration? Coaches, managers, referees, and those that have administered the club probably number in the hundreds. The following is the list of the club presidents:
No single person or even two people can take credit for the precise introduction of the game, or the significant growth and development that Almonte Soccer Club has undergone in the last 40 years. As just mentioned, probably hundreds of volunteers can be identified who have contributed to Almonte soccer. But there are two men, both retired school teachers, both still living in Almonte, both much wiser, and both here today – Mr. Jim Blair and Mr. George Nightingale.
Not only have these two gentlemen promoted the game in Almonte and not only have they contributed the growth of football in the Ottawa region but their legacy expands farther still. In setting up the 40 years celebration day many people have been contacted and this e-mail was received.
I’ll have you know that the pearls of wisdom that both George and Jim taught us so long ago have stood the test of time. As you will recall, Coach Nightingale taught us the vaunted 5-3-2 attacking offence way back in 1968 and we enjoyed great success scoring goals in those early days. (Including the year of our Ontario Challenge Cup Run) This style of soccer made the game all the more fun for us as players and we have George to thank for that. Up here in Thornbury,( near Collingwood Ont) as part of the soccer programme, we implemented George’s love for progressive soccer and all youth teams playing under the age of 13 play with 5 forwards, and our U18 and U15 teams play with 4 forwards. And thanks to George’s early teachings, teams 40 years later continue to score goals and have been very successful, including last year when our town won all 6 age groups in the Grey Bruce County Soccer League!
And yes Jim, you’re influence as a referee has also stood the test of time as well……….I can still hear you yell at us ” play on, play on” as you ignored the small infractions in favour of constant movement of the ball and the continuous flow of the game. These lessons are in use today as all referees in Thornbury town soccer have been instructed in the Jimmy Blair style where small, innocuous fouls are ignored in favour of free flow and movement of the ball……..” Play on, play on” is still being heard 40 years later thanks to the teachings of Jim Blair.
So again, I wish to pass on my personal thanks and congratulations to both Jim and George in recognition of your long standing contributions to soccer, not only in Almonte, but wherever your former students have travelled.
Almonte Soccer Club
Ladies and gentlemen these two men, Jim Blair and George Nightingale, are the primary reason for the establishment and evolution of the “Beautiful Game” in Almonte. Furthermore they have contributed to its development in Ottawa and, in fact, as Bill Kennedy just reminds us, they indirectly continue to play a part in the growth of soccer in Canada.
Almonte Soccer Club