Toronto FC hosted it’s fourth annual Academy Achievement Day this past Wednesday at BMO Field prior to the inaugural Campeones Cup match between TFC and Tigres UANL. In attendance to recognise the academy athletes and their families were TFC executives, academy coaches, and staff.
“This event is important to us as it is vital to take a moment, pause and simply recognise the hard work, sacrifice and achievements of everyone gathered here today,” opened Sr. Director Administration and Operations Jaime McMillian, “Today is a day to thank each other and be grateful for each other’s contributions.”
The second speaker, Toronto FC President Bill Manning, shared the success stories of both Toronto FC’s Jonathan Osorio and Vancouver Whitecaps’ Alphonso Davies as examples of the role that Toronto FC and MLS can play in the career development of these athletes.
Manning was followed by Toronto FC Sr. Vice President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko who spoke about the Toronto FC Player Pathway. Bezbatchenko also took time to recognise the academy players that have signed professional contracts in the last year.
Toronto FC Head Coach Greg Vanney, who initially started the Academy Achievement Day following a trip to the FC Barcelona Academy, spoke directly the academy athletes. Vanney keyed in on the effort and determination it will take for these young athletes to one day play on the very pitch on which they were standing.
The final TFC speaker was newly appointed Academy Director Anthony Capotosto, who spoke on the importance of education while thanking the athletes, coaches, staff, and parents. He then introduced the three academy athletes who were honoured for their embodiment of Toronto FC’s core values.
Adamo Pantaleo (2005), Dino Bontis (2004), and Mehdi Essoussi (2001) were presented with a plaque and were called forward to speak.
“Soccer has always been a big part of my life,” said Pantaleo. “Being here has allowed me to continue to the next level…I have learned new skills, not only from a soccer perspective, but being a part of the TFC Academy has also reinforced important values that I can take with me and use in other aspects of my life.”
Said Essoussi, “Being a part of the TFC Academy is a privilege not many players get to experience. We have a world-class facility, great medical staff, incredible coaches and finally great players.”
The final honouree, Dino Bontis could not be there on the day as he was away on a school trip but prepared a video in which he thanked players, coaches, and staff before ending with a word on commitment.
To close the event, two Toronto FC II players were on hand to make some closing remarks on their pathways to the professional ranks. Both Matt Srbely and Dante Campbell spoke on their time in the Academy and the professional culture at Toronto FC along the player pathway.
Players and their families were then invited into the West Club for a post-event reception prior to the Campeones Cup kickoff.