The name of Riccardo De Thomasis will live on in the local community.
De Thomasis — an accomplished soccer player, coach and mentor who died in April aged 34 after a three-year battle with cancer — has had a local park and soccer pitch named in his honour.
Riccardo De Thomasis Park — formerly known as Ashworth Park — is located adjacent to École Julie-Riel in St. Vital and contains a full-size soccer pitch and several mini-soccer pitches, organizers say.
"As a coach and a dedicated volunteer, Riccardo De Thomasis made a tremendous difference in the lives of many young Winnipeggers and their families," Mayor Sam Katz said in a news release. "I hope that Riccardo’s legacy and his love of the sport will continue to inspire all who play in this park."
De Thomasis discovered his passion for soccer as a six-year-old when he started playing in the Fort Garry community. His game developed as a teenager and by early adulthood he was a provincial elite player.
He played primarily for Winnipeg’s Ital-Inter Soccer Club, while managing and running indoor soccer programs at the city’s Soccer Spectrum, as well as the Calcetto summer soccer league, and the Winnipeg Indoor Mini Soccer league has been described as his pride and joy.
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) — a parent of mini-soccer players and a former mini-soccer coach in De Thomasis’ program, who initiated the idea for the renaming of the park — told The Lance he was delighted with the park’s new name.
"I did not know Riccardo well, but I admired his work with kids and so I led the effort to get a park with soccer facilities named for him."
At a recent renaming ceremony at the park, Riccardo’s brother, Enrico, said his family is proud of the honour and that Riccardo would have been humbled by the gesture.
"The De Thomasis family is honoured to have a city park and soccer field named in Riccardo’s memory," Enrico said in the release.
"It’s great to have Riccardo’s contributions to the community and his dedication to developing young athletes recognized. Riccardo would have accepted the honour with a great sense of pride and dignity. The park will be a special reminder of Riccardo, a place where his memory and legacy can continue to live on."
In 2012, De Thomasis was awarded the Mayor’s Volunteer Service Award for his contribution to youth recreation in the city.