Estonian soccer, or “jalgpall”, has a long and proud history in Toronto’s sporting scene. In the early 60s, the “Estonia” side took to the field against many other post-war ethnic powerhouses, including Toronto Italia, Croatia, and Steve Stavro’s mighty Macedonian side in the old Canadian National Soccer League.
Following in those mighty footsteps these days is West Hammered United. Founded as Bayer Lagerkusen in 2003, West Hammered has been stocked with young Estonian players of both genders since its inception. And like its forbear, it has also been very competitive, with 4 Toronto Indoor League titles over that time.
While great players of the past such as Matsoo, Tamm, Kittask and Altosaar may be retired from the game, some old-timers such as Silmberg, Sambla, Saks still ply their trade, and newcomers Trei, Nieländer, Hess, Tammemägi, Saumets, Sui and Vahi (two of them!) ensure that the Estonian community is well represented on the team.
After a long season, the 2008 season culminated with a playoff season that eventually saw West Hammered matched up against Bryden’s Breakaways in the championship game at Havergal Stadium at the end of April. This was a case of the highest-scoring team in the league, Bryden’s, facing the stingiest defense, West Hammered’s, led by goalie (and well known local DJ at Estonian weddings and confirmations) David Lovell. Lovell has revolutionized the indoor goalie position with his crab-like moves, and cat-like reflexes. He’d get a good test on this night.
The Championship game got off to a excellent start for the Hammers, as Jaan Hess capped off a hard-working shift by putting the ball into the side of the net for the game’s opening goal, just minutes in. A couple shifts later Player/Manager Paul Saumets took a blind pass from Paul Sambla, West Hammered’s career playoff assist leader, and made it 2-0. West Hammered’s Austrian import Ron Kunz made it 3-0, and West Hammered were cruising. Or so it seemed.
But Bryden did not finish undefeated in the regular season without reason. They pulled their goalie, and went with a shock-and-awe lineup that had the Hammers on their heels. A deflected shot got the Breakaways their first goal, and a long-range blast threaded the needle to reduce West Hammered’s lead to just one goal. Furious defending by West Hammered ensured that the Breakaways had to fight for every loose possession.
Proving that strength in numbers was WHU’s strong suit, Scotsman Henderson and Argentinean Franzoi worked hard stuffing the ball at the opposition end of the gym, while Keough, Brown and company ensured things were tight at the other end. Manager Saumets got his second of the game, and Kunz added another, only for Bryden to quickly put two goals of their own on the board.
The final 20 minutes of the game were a flurry of activity, as every time Bryden would score, the wily veteran Kunz would follow up with a calm response – a blast into the opposition goal. By game’s end, he would have 5 goals, a magnificent tally.
When the referee blew to end the game, with West Hammered had weathered the storm and were still plugging away in Bryden’s end. The final score was 8-6 West Hammered, and the Toronto Indoor Benchball title was West Hammered’s again.
Hästi tehtud, Haamrid!
(A welcome aboard to the paper’s new Cincinnati bureau chief.)
Eesti jalgpall in Toronto (2)