EDMONTON — The Ongaro family name has a strong connection to the Olympics.
Easton Ongaro, who scored 10 goals for FC Edmonton last season, has two uncles with close ties to the Games.
Ross Ongaro — who played for the Edmonton Drillers in NASL 1.0, enjoyed a storied career in indoor soccer, and would later coach the national futsal and beach soccer sides — played for Canada in Concacaf qualifying for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Canada didn’t make the cut, but it was all rendered moot when many Western countries ended up boycotting those Games.
Alex Ongaro was a track cyclist who competed for Canada at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
And when it comes to the now-postponed 2020 Tokyo Games, Easton has undergone a bit of an emotional rollercoaster over the last couple of months.
In late February, he was named to Canada’s provisional under-23 team roster for the Olympic qualifiers. Last week, on the day Canada Soccer was supposed to reveal the final squad, the announcement came that the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament was postponed.
Then over this past weekend, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it would not send a team to Tokyo if the Olympics were not postponed. Finally, on Tuesday, came word that the IOC is postponing the Tokyo Games until 2021.
“When the (Canadian) announcement was made, I thought, well ‘there goes that dream,'” Easton told CanPL.ca. “But, now, the delay gives me another year to develop as a player. It gives me another year to prove myself and it might work to my advantage.”
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So, basically, when the Canadian Premier League begins play in 2020, Ongaro knows that the entire season won’t only be about helping FC Edmonton win as many matches as possible, but he’s also been given a prolonged audition by Canada Soccer.
Ongaro said that he hadn’t heard a word from Canada under-23 coach Mauro Biello regarding if he’d made the team or not — but he said his agent had four or five other players who were eligible and hadn’t heard, either. So, Easton believes the people running the national side “saw the writing on the wall” when it came to delays, and decided not to make any calls.
“When they postponed qualifying, it was a bit of a surprise,” Easton said. “But, with everything going on, it was unavoidable.”
For the Tokyo Olympics , players born in 1997 or later are eligible for the tournament. Now that the Olympics are postponed, an interesting debate has arisen. Will players born in 1997 have their eligibility grandfathered for a year to allow them to compete in a 2021 Olympics? Or would they lose their eligibility because of the postponement?
For Ongaro, the point is moot, as he has a 1998 birth year.
And, it’s not just the Olympics that need a new date. So do many qualifying events, including men’s soccer. There’s basketball qualifiers still to be played. Track qualifiers from national associations around the world. And you can’t have the big show until all the qualifying is done.
But Easton is more worried about being able to get the chance to be on the field, and join his newest teammate, Keven Alemán. The signing of Alemán was made official on Tuesday.
The funny thing is that, in the Ongaro family’s possession, is a nearly decade-old ball signed by the members of the Canadian under-17 team of that era. Among the messy signatures, Easton recalled, is a pretty clearly “Keven Alemán” on the ball.
“That’s from 10 years ago, and now we’re teammates. It’s funny how these things happen,” Ongaro offered.