SIMMONS: OUA football coach Greg Marshall reflects on a season of tragedy

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Greg Marshall has been round soccer lengthy sufficient to have performed for the Baltimore Colts, to have performed for the Ottawa Tough Riders and coached with the Ottawa Renegades — all these groups now extinct — and in any case these years, no less than 45 of them across the recreation, he’s by no means recognized a season like this one.


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He hopes to by no means realize it once more.

On the opening day of the OUA soccer season on Sept. 18, Marshall’s College of Toronto Varsity Blues performed Marcel Bellefeuille’s Ottawa Gee Gees at Varsity Stadium. The Blues received 11-10. Nobody will do not forget that over time.

Virtually 90 minutes after the sport had ended, after the Gee Gees had showered, cleaned up, and had their post-game meal, all able to bus for house, there was a commotion outdoors the Toronto dressing room. A participant had collapsed. An Ottawa participant. He had complained about having a abdomen ache.

“I occurred to be there when it occurred,” mentioned Marshall, the top coach at U of T. “You’ll be able to attempt to do essentially the most you are able to do. It’s a kind of belongings you’re unsure how a lot you’re purported to do, it’s troubling, all people’s attempting the most effective they’ll.


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“I don’t know the complete particulars. It wasn’t like one thing occurred through the recreation that you might level to. I’ve by no means been informed a reason for loss of life. I don’t assume it’s been introduced.”

Francis Perron, a 25-year-old mechanical engineering scholar and a group chief, a defensive lineman from the Gee Gees, died not lengthy after the sport ended on Sept. 18.

“You don’t see one thing like that and never let it have an effect on you,” mentioned Marshall. “It was a really traumatic state of affairs. Most of our children have been gone by the point it occurred. They didn’t know what had occurred till the subsequent day. You deal with this as finest you may below very tough circumstances.”

In Marshall’s second recreation of the season, the Blues have been enjoying the Gaels from Queen’s. Queen’s was main 35-11 early within the fourth quarter when Toronto defensive again Koby Lee was within the course of of constructing a sort out and didn’t stand up.


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Lee was hit on the aspect of the top by the knee of the ball provider and on the similar was hit within the neck. He was knocked unconscious. The sport was referred to as within the fourth quarter when Lee didn’t stand up. He was taken away by ambulance.

“We have been all fairly shook up by that,” mentioned Marshall.

Receiver Daniel Oladejo rubs a sticker on his helmet of Francis Perron’s number in a ceremony for Ottawa Gee-Gees defensive tackle Francis Perron on Sept. 25. IAN McALPINE/POSTMEDIA)
Receiver Daniel Oladejo rubs a sticker on his helmet of Francis Perron’s quantity in a ceremony for Ottawa Gee-Gees defensive sort out Francis Perron on Sept. 25. IAN McALPINE/POSTMEDIA)

In all his years in soccer, Marshall had by no means seen a recreation referred to as earlier than it ended: This coming only one recreation and two weeks after watching a younger man die inside his stadium.

Lee, a walk-on defensive again and engineering scholar from Brooklyn, N.Y., is claimed to be recovering properly 18 days after the collision towards Queen’s. He’s sporting a collar round his neck. He’s mentioned to be strolling high-quality. It’s believed he has suffered no everlasting harm.

Marshall performed his faculty ball on the line of defense at Oregon State, was ok to be drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, performed two video games in Baltimore, after which got here to the CFL, the place he spent 9 stable seasons with the Ottawa group then referred to as the Tough Riders. One 12 months, he was spectacular sufficient to win defensive participant of the 12 months in Canada. He retired early, in his thoughts, due to stingers he had suffered within the neck space.


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That’s when he started teaching. He coached for 5 totally different groups within the CFL and had a brief stint as the top coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and, after that, he turned to Ontario college soccer, the place he was an assistant with Queen’s for a couple of seasons earlier than turning into the top coach of the Varsity Blues in 2017. He’s been in Canada enjoying or teaching for the previous 41 years, which might make him one thing of a soccer lifer now as an official senior citizen on the age of 65.

“If you become involved on this sport, this isn’t one thing you assume will occur,” mentioned Marshall, speaking in regards to the previous 12 months, working a program via the pandemic, having an Ottawa participant go away, having his personal participant inclined on the turf of Varsity Stadium.


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“I like this recreation and it’s been my life. You don’t know why issues occur.”

Generally, when he’s alone, possibly in his workplace, possibly in his automobile, alone with the few free minutes a soccer coach permits himself, he thinks in regards to the passing of Francis Perron, he thinks in regards to the harm to Koby Lee, he wonders in regards to the hows and the whys and the hazards of soccer. Then he goes again to work, as a result of that’s what soccer coaches do.

“If you see this stuff, it makes you cease and replicate,” mentioned Marshall. “Makes you consider what you’re doing. You’re not human in case you don’t give it some thought.

“However you additionally should assume, I’ve received 100 children right here, and I see the profit from being concerned and going to an incredible faculty like this one. I’ve misplaced one thing right here, however I haven’t misplaced my ardour for the sport. Getting via this, it’s been laborious for us. However I can’t even think about what it’s been like for Ottawa.”

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