Domenic Mobilio has just won a Twitter poll I put together to determine the best male Canadian soccer player ever. It was one of those COVID-19 ‘stuck at home’ kind of things that everyone seems to be doing. It got reasonable traction and ended up being quite fun when it took on a life of its own at times.
Domo passed away in 2004 after suffering a massive heart attack while driving home from watching a local men’s game. It shook the soccer community deeply. There are really three players that would come to mind if you asked Vancouverites who they associate with the game in this city: Bob Lenarduzzi, Carl Valentine and Domenic Mobilio. Bob and Carl, being older, had the opportunity to earn their fame through playing at the 1986 World Cup and for years in the NASL. Meanwhile Domo played in an era where the NASL and Canada in a World Cup were fading memories. He plied his trade in the CSL and then, when that collapsed, in the A League. With 14 seasons there, Domo really is the patron saint of Swangard Stadium.
As Rob Reed, a fantastic striker himself, who I played with in the CSL with the Edmonton Brickmen and one season at UBC, said on Twitter yesterday…
This was so true. Centrebacks and strikers see the qualities of natural strikers more than others. Strikers recognize it inherently, if they’re good strikers, because they know the value of that quick shoulder drop, of finding the blind spot off a defender’s shoulder and sitting in it at the right moment, of not going into a space too early. They know and respect that in another striker. Centrebacks know it and hate them for it because it makes their lives more difficult. As a centreback you want a predictable striker, not one who creates doubt in your mind and forces you to adjust, shout instructions and focus disproportionately on them when they don’t have the ball.
With 14 seasons there, Domo really is the patron saint of Swangard Stadium.
One of the replies on Twitter last night during the poll linked to a goal Domo scored in World Cup qualifying at Swangard. To most it just looks like a fortuitous goal that he just kicked as hard as he could from a bad angle. It’s much, much more than that.
Here’s the clip
At around 20 seconds into the clip the ball goes to Mike Sweeney, who also did well in the poll. Domo looks across the line to ensure he is onside and can stay in behind the defender. He also sees there is no covering defender and he is essentially 1v1 with his defender He pulls him wider and gives him a shove to create some space as he shows for the ball. Not only has he created a 1v1 and given Sweeney an option to play to him, he has made a much bigger space for Bunbury to use centrally.
Sweeney opts to play into the space for Bunbury. Most strikers at this point are pissed off they didn’t get the ball themselves and either tune out or just look and hope that Bunbury does something with the ball. If you look carefully, before the ball has even gone past him and into the box, Domo is already preparing for the next phase of play. He has peeled off, spotted the ball, figured out the space he has to work with and is calculating the time he has and how that will affect that space.
Honestly, I’m not making a meal of this. This is what excellent strikers do and why they end up scoring exactly the sort of goal that Domo is about to score.
As the ball goes to Bunbury, the space contracts as defenders scramble to re-organize and deal with the ball that has found Alex deep in their box. Domo has found a small space in case Alex passes to him. It’s a space that still allows an angle for him to shoot on goal. As great a player and as great a career as Alex had, that was a shocking first touch he took there! It’s not a pass to Domo but a sudden ricochet that gives Domo half a second to calibrate, get his feet set, see/sense where the keeper is and decide between slotting near post, going between his legs or going hard to the far post. He chooses correctly, a trademark, and scores.
I’m getting texts and DM’s as I write this about the poll and Domo. An interesting one was from someone (won’t say names since he chose not to put it directly on Twitter) who played with and against Domo who recalled a high school game where he and a teammate who also had some youth international experience combined for five goals against Templeton, Domo’s school. Should’ve been an easy win for a high school team with two players in a national team pool. Domo calmly notched five. Game ended 5-5.
That’s what he did. He scored goals. He developed a connaisseur’s nose for where to be and when to get there and coupled it with the calmness of Hannibal Lecter when dispatching the ball to where it had it go.
If you have the good fortune to play the game for a long time your mind tends to catalogue two things. Success and laughs. Playing at a high level is a fantastic opportunity. It’s also physically and mentally challenging and can take you from euphoria to anger to heartbreak in 90 minutes. You need some respite from that and it usually comes in the form of being with people who can both relate to what it’s like and have a laugh about it with teammates.
This is where Steve MacDonald, aka Stevie Mac or Smack, comes in.
Most teams have a few guys who can make you laugh. Some are great at it. Often there’s a few that can riff off of each other in the dressing room and get everyone laughing for a few minutes. I’ve had that on several teams whether it was in dressing rooms, travelling on buses or planes, or having beers in hotels or bars. It’s an essential part of the experience.
Domo and Stevie Mac were inseparable. They could each light up a room and hold court on their own with stories and banter but when you put them together…they could have sold tickets. One of my best road trip memories with the 86ers (besides Sammy Saundh impressively talking Halifax police into releasing Ivor out of the paddy wagon they’d thrown him into after a disagreement in a night club…) was Domo telling us about his time at Dundee and then Stevie coming in and giving his version of how Domo convinced him to come join him there. The details aren’t important but there were probably six or seven of us in the hotel room listening to this for twenty minutes as they hammered each other about that fiasco. I remember it clearly. On the other hand, I scored three goals for the 86ers but I only remember one.
So for his ability, Domo deserves to win this poll. He was that good. For the type of teammate he was and the sense of humour he had, I’m glad he won it.
I just want to touch on one other thing that emerged from this poll.
The first round of the poll saw Mark Rogers go up against Alphonso Davies. There had already been a couple of ‘this is dumb, just give the title to Phonzie now’ tweets but Wycombe Wanderers were having none of that. With one tweet, this happened…
Most of these polls, 127 in all I believe, had 90-120 votes but some exploded. This one had the most votes of any and was neck and neck down to the last half hour. Incredulous Davies fans were not happy. Mark and I thought it was hilarious. We spoke on the phone soon after he won. “I’m laughing my ass off. My kid thinks this is great.” So that alone was enough to justify the work in getting the poll up and then getting it across the finish line.
But Mark had something else to say about it. I knew he’d played at Wycombe for several years and been their captain. I didn’t really know anything about the club though. “Wycombe fans remember their players. The club is big on its history and they really appreciate when former players keep in touch with the club.” Rogers had gone back several times and is still held in high regard there. So it just took one tweet to their official account and the re-tweet from them saw the votes pile in over the next 24 hours.
But the most interesting thing Mark said when we spoke was, “People here don’t get the sort of culture that exists at clubs like Wycombe. They stick by their players. They respect and remember them. We don’t have that here and it’s special.” I agreed. We don’t have a truly embedded culture here that stems from a network of professional clubs that all have their own identity. We have a different model for professional sport (franchises) and the distance between cities erodes away support and thus rivalries. Those things all contrive to inhibit, here, the sort of supporter culture that clubs like Wycombe have.
So we don’t have that with our professional clubs. At least not to the degree that other parts of the world do.
But we did have something really special happen in that vein. It just wasn’t from a professional club fan base. It was from Coquitlam Metro-Ford. CMF have long been considered one of the best, if not the best, youth club in our province. They consistently produce very good players, are very well run and have a culture that sees their top players return to coach there. Its an aspirational club with a strong identity.
Domenic Mobilio was the TD of one of the two clubs that was in the process of merging to form CMF when he tragically passed away in late 2004.
That’s sixteen years ago and CMF still honour his memory with an annual Friendship Jamboree that has run for 13 years. All the t-shirts for those who attend their summer camps have his number 10 on the back.
It is a club with a strong sense of community. More than any other club they got involved in this poll and encouraged their members to vote for players who had a connection to their club. Alfredo Valente and Dale Mitchell coach there. Craig Forrest and Carlo Corazzin played at clubs that merged to form CMF. They all got the support of current CMF members but none more so than Domo.
The poll is a bit of fun for trying times but the response from CMF members was what we need more of in this country. They feel a part of their club. They are proud of its legacy. They weren’t too big or too good to show their support in numbers in a piddly Twitter poll. They had fun with it and it added another layer to the sense of community they already have; to the culture they have built and continue to build. All for someone who never got to actually see the birth of the club.
Domo’s legacy at CMF exists even though there is not a single youth player playing there now who was old enough to play when he passed away.
Sixteen years is a blip for supporters Wycombe (c. 1887) and Rangers (c 1872, bankruptcy aside); another club that mobilized votes massively – Scott Arfield in their case. It is not a blip in BC youth soccer circles where staff and board members come and go and priorities change almost as much. To keep Domenic Mobilio’s memory alive and thriving all this time is impressive and my hat is off to them. So well done Domo and last word goes to Coquitlam Metro-Ford and their machine of a Twitter account 🙂