Meet the Ottawa Wizards
By TIM BAINES -- Ottawa Sun
The Ottawa Wizards have big plans.
Despite their status as an expansion franchise in the Canadian Professional Soccer League, the Wizards believe they can win a championship. And they believe that Ottawa can support an A-League franchise as early as two years down the road.
"When we got into this we didn't know what the CPSL was like. We would have been happy to finish in the top six," said Wizards GM Jim Lianos. "But now, seeing what we have, the bar has been raised. We expect to be in the top three. Losing is not an option for us."
The Wizards, who trail just the Toronto Olympians in the standings with nine wins, three ties and one loss, have averaged about 500 fans for their home games. Their biggest crowd was about 750, but Lianos says 3,000 fans within a few years might not be unrealistic.
"There's enough soccer interest in the Ottawa area to support a pro team," said Lianos. "When the Intrepid was here, there was no money. But soccer is getting bigger and better here all the time. (President and Oz Optics owner) Omur Sezerman has made a commitment to this. This will cost about $250,000 this year. But it's his passion. He's put up the best soccer facility in North America."
The success of the Wizards can be traced to a combination of factors.
First may be the expertise of coach Rasim Kara, whose experience as a national team and Division 1 goalie and coach in Turkey has been a huge plus for the Ottawa team.
"It's like having Scotty Bowman coaching the Nepean Raiders. He's a legend in Turkey," said Lianos.
Then there's the Wizards' Trinidad Tobago connection. Abraham Osman, Richard Goddard, Shurland David and Kevin Nelson have been rock-solid.
For that they can thank Goddard, a goalie, who convinced his bosses there was plenty of untapped talent out there.
"Where they come from, soccer is the most important sport," said Lianos.
Then there's the local talent. Most of the players on the roster come from Ottawa or Kingston.
"The local talent is the most important thing to develop," said Lianos. "We need to do that for this to succeed."
While many of the 12 teams in the CPSL utilize the talents of a combination of amateur and pro players, the Wizards have loaded up on players with good experience. The players earn from $250-$600 per week. As word spreads of the Wizards' success, players from outside of this area want to sign up.
"I got an e-mail the other day from a guy in Alaska who wants to play here," said Lianos.
Tickets for the home games, played at the Oz Dome in Carp, cost $3 each.
One of the highlights of the Wizards' seasons remains: They'll host the Oz Optics Cup Sept. 28-29.
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