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Headlines from the past: Pro soccer in Coquitlam? It almost happened

A group of investors wanted to bring a Canadian Soccer League team to Coquitlam's Town Centre Stadium.
Metro-Ford Youth Soccer Association president Willy Azzi was the frontman for a group of 12 investors looking to establish a pro soccer team in Coquitlam in 1991.

Stories from Tri-City News headlines of decades past will be a recurring feature as the publication approaches its 40th anniversary in 2024.

Professional soccer almost came to Coquitlam in 32 years ago.

Willy Azzi, the president of the Metro-Ford Youth Soccer Association, led a group of 12 local investors that applied to the former Canadian Soccer League (CSL) for a team to play out of 2,000-seat Town Centre Stadium.

The group was assembled by Vancouver-based soccer coach and clinic organizer Mike Bernadis who saw a pro team as an opportunity to put into practice some of his unique ideas about the game.

In an interview with the Tri-City News, he said soccer is being played incorrectly, relying too heavily on individual talent rather than working that talent into a team concept.

"What we did until now is wrong around the world," Bernadis said.

The CSL was founded in 1987, three years after the demise of the top-tier North American Soccer League that included five Canadian teams when it folded.

Those teams — including the Vancouver 86ers — became the nucleus of the new eight-team national circuit.

Azzi said he wanted to use Coquitlam’s proposed entry into the league as way to promote the area’s font of local soccer talent.

"I don’t think our problem is going to be player talent," he said.

Coquitlam Mayor Lou Sekora said the team would be a boost for the city while parks and recreation manager Don Cunnings said it would be possible to install additional bleachers on the sidelines opposite the existing grandstand. But, he added, he wasn’t sure who would bear that cost.

"We haven’t even had an official request to consider the stadium for this use," Cunnings said. "We'd like to see something on paper."

Alas, professional soccer in Coquitlam was not to be, as the bid was rejected by the CSL’s board of governors without even a vote..

"To be fair, I think the timing was not favourable," said league president Mario Di Bartolomeo.

The Tri-City News has covered civic affairs, local crime, festivals, events, personalities, sports and arts in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody since 1983. Bound back issues of the paper are available at the Coquitlam Archives, while digital versions of several past years can be found at