Remembering Domenic Mobilio

VANCOUVER, BC – As a young kid, Domenic Mobilio would often sneak under the fence at the old Empire Stadium to watch the Vancouver Whitecaps train. Then, after they left, he and his friends would jump onto the pitch and start playing themselves.

It was one of Mobilio’s first introductions to Vancouver’s professional soccer scene – a scene that would soon become synonymous with his name.

Mobilio, who holds the all-time club record with 170 goals, will be inducted into the Whitecaps FC Ring of Honour prior to Saturday’s match against FC Dallas.

The induction ceremony falls almost 23 years to the day that Mobilio helped lead the Vancouver 86ers to their fourth straight Canadian Soccer League title.

It’s also 10 years after Mobilio tragically passed away from a sudden heart attack at the age of 35.

Members of Mobilio’s immediate family, as well as about 350 friends and other family members, will be on hand Saturday at BC Place for the induction ceremony.

“It’s bittersweet because we’d love for him to be accepting this rather than us,” Domenic’s younger brother, Tony, told whitecapsfc.com. “But we’re so thankful to the club and to the alumni for giving Dom this honour. He loved playing for this city, he loved playing for the club, and I know he would have been incredibly honoured.”

Fittingly, the rebirth of professional soccer in Vancouver in 1986 coincided with Mobilio’s emergence.

The Vancouver-born striker joined the inaugural 86ers as an 18-year-old – he was one of the first two players to sign – and scored in their first-ever game.

Carl Valentine, who played with Mobilio for 13 years, remembers the game well. Valentine scored Vancouver’s first goal. Then, the 86ers earned a penalty, which Mobilio was supposed to take.

“I stood off because Domenic was going to take the penalty, then he came up to me and said, ‘Can you take the penalty?’” Valentine recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah sure, and luckily enough I scored.’”

“Later on in the game, we got another penalty,” Valentine continued. “So I went to take it and he came and took the ball off me. He took the penalty, scored, and we won 4-2.”

From there, Mobilio never looked back. He spent 15 seasons in Vancouver and established himself as the most prolific goalscorer this city has ever seen.

His 170 goals for the club are more than double than the next player. That total, which still ranks second in the all-time North American scoring charts, also makes Mobilio the all-time leading scorer in Canadian Soccer League history.

“He was left-footed, which always looks a little more stylish, and he held the ball up well,” said Carl Valentine, a fellow Ring of Honour inductee. “But what you could say about Domenic is when he was around the penalty area he very, very rarely tried to hit the ball very hard. He was very calm, the game seemed to slow down for him, and there weren’t many chances he didn’t finish.”

“He was a clinical finisher,” added Bob Lenarduzzi, who was both a coach and teammate to Mobilio with the 86ers. “If he gets 10 chances, he’s probably going to bury eight of them.”

Mobilio, who earned 25 caps with the Canadian senior men’s national team, quickly became a superstar after joining the team as a teenager, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell from his off-field demeanor. As Lenarduzzi put it, Mobilio was just a “good kid.”

Valentine was of a similar opinion, referring to Mobilio as a well-mannered, personable individual who always handled himself very well.

And that never changed – even when the spotlight started pointing in his direction.  

“He was very humbled by it,” Tony said. “He’d be out in public and totally noticed and he had time for everyone. And I think that’s what drew a lot of people to him. He was very humbled and very proud to be playing in this city.”

That’s why Tony said his big brother “never blinked an eye” at offers from other teams. And there were many. Mobilio was happy to retire with his boyhood team, which he did in 2001.

His number 10 was subsequently retired. And today, Whitecaps FC’s leading goalscorer is awarded the “Domenic Mobilio Golden Boot Award.”

Mobilio was a shoe-in for the Ring of Honour considering his various contributions to this club and city, but it won’t make Saturday’s induction ceremony any less special for his family. And according to Tony, his big brother will be watching from above.

“I know he will be … with a big smile on his face,” Tony said. “I can guarantee you that.”

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