Legend Lenarduzzi a champion in Vancouver
Posted on 12 May 2012 in Around the Soccer World
Have Sam Lenarduzzi tell you, Vancouver Columbus was the best amateur team in all of Canada in 1968. Unfortunately, the record book won't tell you that. Instead, it shows Toronto Royals the victor in the annual Challenge Trophy national championship, played that year in Toronto.
The final score: Toronto Royals 2, Vancouver Columbus 1.
"On that night, we were the better team, it was just one of those nights..." said Lenarduzzi.
Almost a year to the day later, Lenarduzzi and club weren't about to let the record books tell a different story two years in a row. Vancouver Columbus was the best team in the country and they were about to prove it.
The final score: Vancouver Columbus 10, Montréal Ukrainia 0.
In what remains the largest one-sided score in Challenge Trophy history, Vancouver Columbus held nothing back in the 1969 final played in front of friends and family in Vancouver, BC. Six different players scored goals, including a brace from then-teenager Lenarduzzi.
"We just decided we weren't going to let the same thing happen again," said Lenarduzzi. "Everybody did what they needed to do to win. We were a very passionate bunch of guys."
Columbus FC of Vancouver, BC won Canada's Challenge Trophy in 1964, 1969, 1977 and 1978. Captain Gene Vazzoler was the one player crowned national champion all four times, while owner Peter Mainardi was the mainstay over the team's incredible 15-year run.
By the time Columbus FC had won its fourth title in 1978, Sam Lenarduzzi was already a professional footballer in the North American Soccer League, as well as captain with Canada's national team. He spent nine seasons in the NASL, split between Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Toronto Blizzard. He also played in three cycles of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers from 1968 to 1977.
He spent eight seasons with Vancouver Columbus before turning pro in 1974. Just 16 years old when he was recruited, he was already a regular by the time he was 17 a short year later (playing alongside older brother Vanni, two and a half years his senior).
Alongside the Lenarduzzi brothers, the 1969 Columbus FC team featured Peter Greco (goal), Jim Berry, Victor Kodelja and Sergio Zanatta, all of whom played for Canada at one point in their career. In fact, between the loss in 1968 and the victory in 1969, Greco, Berry, Zanatta and (Sam) Lenarduzzi all featured for Canada in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in October of 1968.
"We played out of Callister Park in the Pacific Coast League," said Lenarduzzi. "Our teams were always strong. We had an Italian owner (Mainardi) and he would often bring an older pro, so we always had one or two calibre players."
In the 1969 national final, Lenarduzzi, Zanatta and substitute Dan Rosengren each scored two goals, while Berry, Kodelja and Peter Simpson scored a goal each (there was also an own goal by Montréal). Nearly all of the goals were scored in the second half. Greco posted the clean sheet.
"In those days with Columbus, you didn't get paid, but you were treated well," said Lenarduzzi. "You would go to the restaurant and have great meals and they (the club) took care of everything. It was a fun time."