20 Aug 2021

It’s been half a century since Serbian White Eagles took a bold step into the Canadian soccer community as an expansion team in the National Soccer League. It was 1970 and in that inaugural year the team,  founded in 1968 in Hamilton, Ontario, finished third in the table, winning 17 of its 26-games NSL league campaign and this was followed by an impressive second in the standings in 1972 and 1973.

The National Soccer League (NSL) was launched in 1926 and became the forerunner of today’s Canadian Soccer League with its first rebranding to the Canadian National Soccer League (CNSL), followed by the Canadian Professional Soccer League (CPSL) and the present Canadian Soccer League (CSL) in 2006.

Following those early successes in the NSL, Serbian White Eagles won the league title in 1974 and drew national attention by being the first Canadian soccer club to qualify for entry into the CONCACAF Champions Cup, facing teams throughout North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The Canadian team was eliminated by Mexican team CF Monterrey.

Serbian White Eagles scored a remarkable 118 regular season goals during that 1974 NSL season and continued to be a top draw until withdrawing from professional soccer in 1981, focusing on youth soccer and youth development, eventually entering an amateur team in the Ontario Soccer League.

The west Toronto organization returned to professional soccer in 2006 as an expansion team in the Canadian Soccer League drawing large attendances to be an immediate success on the field and in the stadium. The new entry took the CSL International  Division title in the first two seasons 2006 and 2007 and was a finalist in the CSL Championship in the first four years 2006 – 2009, winning the championship in 2008 and again in 2016.

Serbian White Eagles has been importing top players from Europe from as early as 1971, continuing the practice with a steady stream of talented and experienced players as well as highly skilled coaches, all of which helped in the success of the White Eagles and help to develop the CSL into one of  the most attractive soccer leagues in Canada. Their playing, coaching and mentoring skills played a big part in the development of local young players in and outside of the academy setting.

Uros Stamatovic, now and in recent years coach of Serbian White Eagles, Mirko Medic, recently appointed head coach of Scarborough SC, Niki Budalic, now on staff with Miami FC of Major League Soccer, Dusan Belic, Dragan Radovic, a top player who was the first player to be transferred internationally from Montenegro following that country’s independence in 2006, Sinisa Ninkovic, a former top player in Europe and an under-21 Serbian international, Bozo Milic, Sasa Viciknez, a fan favourite at Centennial Stadium in Toronto with his patented free kicks finding the net  just inside the post, Mark Jankovic, Uros Predic, Gabriel Pop, Nenad Stojcic, are just a few of the many who have played for Serbian White Eagles since its return to professional soccer.

But the best player of all arrived in earlier times when Serbian White Eagles were the talk of the town in 1973 following their NSL championship win and entry into the CONCACAF competition. The explosive Mike Stojanovic , a sought-after striker from Lapovo, Serbia, scored 96 goals including 52 in 1974, a record that is unlikely to be surpassed. Following his success with the White Eagles, Stojanovic made 179 appearances for Rochester Lancers, San Diego Sockers and San Jose Earthquakes in the North American Soccer League and was awarded the NASL’s Player of the year. A Canadian international with 15 caps, Stojanovic was inducted into Canada’s Soccer Hall of Fame in 2009. ‘One of the great players in American professional soccer a generation ago’, Michael Lewis of the New York Daily News wrote of Stojanovic  in 2010.

On the coaching side, the legendary Dragoslav Sekularac tops the list both by his winning attitude which brought results, and for his celebrity status which attracted considerable attention from players and the soccer community at large. Sekularac, a Serbian attacking midfielder with unusual dribbling skills, was considered to be one of the top players in Europe and a favourite after joining Red Star Belgrade in 1955, playing 470 games and scoring 119 goals. He was a youth international 10 times and made 41 appearances for the Yugoslavia national team.

Sekularac was appointed coach of the Serbian White Eagles CSL team on its return to professional soccer in 2006 and with his star-studded line-up attracted large crowds at Centennial Stadium while winning the International Division title in both 2006 and 2007. The CSL championship was won in 2008 so that in the four years 2006 to 2009 Serbian White Eagles captured three league titles and was in the championship final all four seasons.

Serbian White Eagles has generally trailed FC Vorkuta and Scarborough SC since winning the CSL championship in 2016, but with new close season signings, which includes Sierra Leon international goalkeeper John Trye, and with the present import player strength, head coach Uros Stamatovic  expects a stronger performance in the upcoming ProSound Cup competition and the CSL championship.

Serbian White Eagles’ players in 2020 and on the 2021 roster that played in Europe include defender Nemanja Simeunovic, previously with Waterloo and Scarborough SC, Branislav Vukomanovic, a defender formerly with London City and one of  the most experienced players in the CSL having played in Serbia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Romania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Hungary and Albania before arriving in Canada in 2013 to make 113 club appearances for Serbian White Eagles, defender Zoran Pesic, played extensively in Serbia, Bojan Zoranovic played in Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina and signed for the CSL’s  CSC Mississauga and Scarborough SC, before a move to Serbian White Eagles.

Serbian White Eagles’ opening season game for the ProSound Cup is scheduled against Atletico Sporting Toronto for Saturday, August 28, a 7 pm kickoff at Centennial Stadium in Etobicoke.


Stan Adamson





The post SERBIAN WHITE EAGLES CANADA’S IMPORT CHAMPIONS appeared first on Canadian Soccer League.

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