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Italia Flyers celebrate national silver 50 years later

It was the summer of 1964, but John D'Agostino remembers it like yesterday.
John D'Agostino fondly recalls the Italia Flyers championship run of 1964, when the team very nearly captured the Canadian title. Photo by Randy Pascal.
It was the summer of 1964, but John D'Agostino remembers it like yesterday.

The Sudbury Italia Flyers men's soccer team had already captured the Ontario championship, beating Windsor in two straight, before eliminating the Halifax Holland Schooners 2-0 in the Eastern Canadian semi-finals.

Playing the final in Montreal, the Flyers were in tough, facing the St. Paul Rovers.

"It was near the end of the first half," recalled D'Agostino. "Eddy Palladino scored, but the goalie challenged and broke his leg. Our players were upset and riding the referee."

Montreal would come back to score a pair, up 2-1 against a ten-man team with time winding down. But Ferrucio Deni would capitalize on a corner kick from D'Agostino, sending the contest to overtime.

Some 80 minutes later, with Sudbury down to nine players after one more ejection, the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

"In those days, there was no shootout," said D'Agostino. "We had to replay the game, and our management told them we play in Sudbury or we don't play at all."

A 4-0 win in Sudbury would propel the Flyers to the Canadian championships in Vancouver, and though the team fell short with a 4-0 loss, the accomplishment stands as the finest result of any city soccer team.

Come May 28 at the Caruso Club, players, families, fans and friends will get a chance to relive some of the memories as a gala evening celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Italia Flyers.

Thanks to the efforts of the late Eddy Palladino, the festivities will include more than just a rehash of 50-year-old memories.

"Most of the final game from Vancouver is on film," stated D'Agostino. "Highlights of the trip from Sudbury to Vancouver, and clips from the Eastern Canada final. It was all done by Palladino."

D'Agostino insists the 1963 version of the team might even have been stronger, thanks in large part to the level of local competition.

"In 1963, we had a powerhouse," said D'Agostino. "Not only the Italia Flyers, but in Sudbury in general. The teams were very competitive."

Soccer in Sudbury was enjoying the height of its popularity.
"There were stands on both sides of Queen's Athletic Field," said D'Agostino, recalling the rematch with Montreal. "They were full, plus people standing all around the field. There must have been 2,500 people easy.

"The atmosphere was electric."

Tickets are on sale for $40/person and can be obtained from either the Caruso Club, or any local member of the team.