September 25, 2013
By: Adam Martin-Robbins
Photo By: Nick Iwanyshyn If you’re launching a soccer academy, attaching the name Diego Maradona to it will certainly pique people’s interest. But what matters most, of course, is backing up that name with solid skills. Fortunately for Woodbridge’s Diego Maradona — nephew of the Argentine soccer legend of the same name — he brings both to the table. “He has something that you’re just born with and that’s passion for the game. I think it’s in his DNA,” said Enzo Venditti, who coached Mr. Maradona as a teenager in Vaughan. “I’m considering putting my son in his academy just so that even if he gets a bit of that passion rubbed off on him, he’ll have a love for the game and a passion for the sport.” Enrico Mazzone shares that view. He played alongside Mr. Maradona on the North York Astros, of the Canadian Soccer League (CSL) in 2007, and they worked together at AC Milan Academy soccer camps. In fact, Mr. Mazzone recommended his friend for a job there as an assistant. He remembers a day when Mr. Maradona was called on, unexpectedly, to take over a class for another coach. "He just nailed it, spot on and he had nothing planned,” Mr. Mazzone said. “He can think on the go because he has a very deep, encyclopedic knowledge of great activities, fun activities, where the kids will pay attention and learn something and have fun.” Mr. Maradona grew up in a soccer family. His father, Lalo, and both his uncles all played professionally — although only one of them rose to global fame. He started kicking the ball as a three-year-old at his father’s soccer academy in Argentina. And he never stopped. Mr. Maradona has played professionally in the Canadian Soccer League off and on since 2007. He is currently a midfielder with the York Region Shooters. And, by all accounts, he is very talented on the pitch. “He doesn’t look like a strong guy, but the thing is, he’s so strong on the ball,” Mr. Mazzone said. “He’s bodily aware how to keep control of the ball under pressure. “... He makes himself look twice as big when he’s on the ball. It’s weird, I can’t explain it. And he has a good sense of vision and a killer shot.” Between stints in the CSL, Mr. Maradona played in 2010 professionally in Argentina for Camioneros. “I was 21 at the time and I got to play with some professionals who were in their retirement phase,” he said. “That was a big step in my career.” In 2011, Mr. Maradona took another big step in his career, signing with UD Alzira of Spain. Although he was born there, Mr. Maradona ran into a roadblock trying to secure a work permit. He’s unable to play with the club until the matter gets sorted out. In the meantime, he decided to launch his own soccer academy. “I really enjoy working with kids,” said the soft-spoken 24-year-old. “I want to see Canadians grow, in the sense that we give them the right training because there’s so much potential out there. I want to give them the right training to go to the next level and help them progress.” The academy runs out of Trio Sportsplex, 601 Cityview Blvd., offering 10, one-hour sessions Saturday mornings starting at 10 a.m. The Diego Maradona Soccer Academy runs from Oct. 12 to Dec. 14 and is open to boys and girls. It costs $350, uniform included. “… Always playing with the ball, that’s what I want to emphasize,” he said. “In South America and Europe, there’s barely any training that you do without a ball. That’s what we do opposite here. We try to teach kids how to run and how to go over hurdles instead of teaching them what’s important.” For more information, email email@example.com, call 647-291- 8297 or check out the academy’s Facebook page.