Time and again, winger Sasa Viciknez slotted free kicks from just outside the penalty box inches inside the post while playing for Serbian White Eagles in the Canadian Soccer League, the skills of a dead ball specialist developed in northern Serbia and Bulgaria. When Eagles’ defender Mirko Medic was relentless in keeping the ball away from his penalty box, the skills were developed in Serbia, with lots of practice at higher levels in France and Denmark.
Viciknez and Medic did not play when Serbian White Eagles defeated Hamilton City for the CSL Championship on October 30, but some new faces were a reminder that the procession of outstanding Serbian players arriving from Europe to play in the Canadian Soccer League is never ending.
Serbian White Eagles have developed a reputation over the years of being attractive to watch. Making its first appeared in Hamilton in the late sixties, the team moved to Toronto in 1974, winning the National Soccer League championship that year and continuing with some prominence until withdrawing from professional soccer in 1980 when the club maintained an amateur structure to focus on the development of young, local players.
The professional team then re-appeared in the CSL in 2006 and was an immediate hit, drawing large crowds and reaching the championship final, losing to Italia Shooters. The team was a finalist again in 2007, won the CSL championship in 2008 and again runners-up in 2009. Serbian White Eagles also won the then CSL International Division in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and the CSL First Division in 2015.
Mike Stojanovic was probably the best Serb player to arrive in Canada. The explosive centre forward scored 54 goals in his first season with Serbian White Eagles of the National Soccer League (NSL) back in 1974. The NSL was a forerunner league of the CSL. Stojanovic followed up with 42 goals the following season and was immediately sought by clubs in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the highest level club soccer in Canada and the United States at the time.
The native of Lapovo, Serbia, signed for Rochester Lancers of the NASL, followed by San Diego Sockers and was named North American Player of the Year by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association. He was selected for Canada in 1980, the first year ruled to be eligible. The prolific striker made 14 appearances for Canada and was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2009. Mike Stojanovic died at Toronto in 2010 while maintaining his unstinting support for the CSL team. He is the only Serbian White Eagles player to have his number (9) retired.
Players Blagoja Tamindzic, Mike Bakic (became a Canadian international), Trifun Mihajilovic, Tibor Gemeri (capped for Canada) and Dragan Popovic were also prominent players for Serbian White Eagles during that period.
In recent times, CSL fans enjoyed watching players like Viciknez (2006 – 2012) and Medic. Other experienced players to make Serbian Eagles one of the prominent teams in Canada are goalkeeper Dusan Belic, Nenad Stojcic, Bozo Milic, Aleksandar Braletic and Niki Budalic. Zoran Rajovic scored 18 goals in 22 games in 2012 before returning to Europe, Boris Milicic, Aleksandar Radosavljevic, Zoran Rajovic, Ivan Stankovic, Branislav Vukomanovi, Đorđe Jocic, Milos Kocic, Marko Krasic, Radenko Kamberovic, Milos Scepanovic, Milos Ljubenovic and Uros Stamatovic – who has moved on to be coach and manager – have all left an indelible mark on the Toronto area-based club.
Budalic, the former captain and later appointed coach, is now enjoying an extended soccer career as assistant general manager at Orlando City of Major League Soccer.
The procession of players during the 2006 re-birth of Serbian White Eagles was highlighted with the presence of Dragoslav Sekularac as head coach. Sekularac, a top player in Europe with Red Star Belgrade and making more than 50 appearances for the former Yugoslavia, arrived in Toronto to assist the new local team to become established in the tough CSL.
Dragan Bakoc, president of Serbian White Eagles, commented on the club’s success leading up to winning the CSL Championship victory on October 30:
“We are extremely happy with this year’s success of our team. Our players, coaches and community at large all contributed to winning this championship. My congratulations go to our players and coaches and a huge thank you to all in our community who contributed. A special thanks also, to the clubs of the CSL and the league management for their hard work and continuing progress in Canadian soccer,” he said.