Massimo Di Ioia featured as Athlete of the Week
Selected by the Montreal Gazette and Global TV
August 10, 2005

Soccer star makes most of 2nd chance
After failing to impress development team 5 years ago, Massimo Di Ioia, 18,
is expected to play for Canada in world youth tourney

by Arpon Basu, freelance

MONTREAL - When the world's best 20-and-under soccer players arrive at cities across Canada, including Montreal, for the 2007 FIFA World Youth Championship, St. Leonard's Massimo Di Ioia hopes to be welcoming them with a maple leaf on his chest.

Di Ioia, 18, has been identified as a top candidate to represent Canada at the 2007 championship with his selection to the national under-18 development team.

"I've always aimed to play for the national team," Di Ioia said. "It's an honour to wear that red and white."

Di Ioia had his first shot at realizing that dream five years ago when he went to the national championships with the U-14 Quebec team. But by his own admission, Di Ioia didn't have a strong tournament and fell off the national radar.

Two years ago, Di Ioia was awarded the Golden Boot, for being the top scorer in the U-16 division of the Quebec Elite Soccer League, and the Golden Ball as league MVP, but it still wasn't enough to get him another national tryout.

Last summer, however, an injury on the national squad opened a door for Di Ioia and he barged right in, scoring a goal 23 minutes into his first international contest in a 3-2 loss to the United States.

"It didn't take me long to make an impact," said Di Ioia, who will begin his second year at Vanier College next month. "I felt I had performed. It was a great feeling to score in my first game."

If Di Ioia thought his position with the national team was secured with that performance, he was brought down a notch when Canada played the U.S. again last month and he wasn't in the starting lineup of a game Canada won 2-0.

The next day at practice, Di Ioia was determined to win back the favour of Canadian head coach Sean Fleming.

"I approached that practice like it was a real game, an international game," Di Ioia said, still somewhat irked by the snub. "I wanted to prove to the coach that I should have been on the field."

Two days later, Di Ioia proved just that, scoring twice in the first half and completing his hat trick in the second half of a 5-0 pounding of Scotland.

Di Ioia's next challenge will be with the Quebec U-18 team at the Canada Games, which are going on this week in Regina.

His long-term goals don't go past the 2007 championship just yet, but Di Ioia has some big dreams.

"2007 is a big year, so that's what I'm preparing for," he said. "After that, hopefully, I'll get to play in Europe, preferably in Italy. I've always envisioned playing there. But if I don't get that chance in Europe, a scholarship to the States would be the best thing for me.

"I want to play soccer as long as I can. It's something I love doing."