Origins - Bedfordview, South Africa
In 1948 the Societa Sportiva Italiana was formed, although it was officially unveiled only the Year after. Although the idea was for sports lovers, preferably of Italian origin to come together, it started with football. It was the brainchild of Dr Ugo Giunchi, himself a great lover of football. Together with 750 friends Dr Giunchi rallied and raised £7 500.00 to purchase the Soccer Fields, now commonly referred to as our "A" field and the Hockey Field, our "B" field. As time progressed so saw the birth of two tennis courts and 8 Bocce camps. The reason behind the purchase was that Sport was not allowed to be played on a Sunday morning at municipal grounds for religious purposes. This did not suit the Italian immigrants that had so enthusiastically accepted Dr Giunchi’s idea of starting a football club. Playing football for these young Italians was a means of linking them to their beloved Italy, a country known for their love of football.
Why Olympia Football Club? Let’s face it, Olympia is not really an Italian name, but for Dr Giunchi, an idealist and romantic at heart, chose the name Olympia for it’s symbolism of sport, pride and sheer determination that strikes where it hurts most – the heart. In 1951 the Societa Sportiva Italiana officially changed its name to Italian Sporting Club. It's the same year that Gino Ponte was enticed to join the Club by a friend. In 1954 the first Clubhouse was built, and this was followed by the Bowling camps in 1955. In 1956 Gino Ponte retired from playing football. Olympia was playing in the Southern Transvaal Football Association Division 2 and had just won the Cup. He had also participated in the curtain raiser game of the first International held between England and South Africa. Ario Canova, the Vice President, saw the potential for a successful Football team, and with the help of Bruno Riboldi and Brollo Africa proceeded to build the Stadium at the Italian Club. The Stadium that seated 4000 people comfortably was named Canova Stadium in appreciation of Canova's involvement. After Ario Canova's retirement he remained an honorary member of Olympia Football Club. In 1958 Dr Ugo Giunchi began the very first International Tournament. Dr Giunchi’s aim was to bring the different communities together through our love of football. With each passing year, the International Tournament boosted its own Committee, and grew in numbers.
In 1959 the Club was promoted to the 1st Division of STFA. During this time Dr Ugo Giunchi remained the backbone of the Club. Olympia was playing in the top amateur division, and dreaming of an entry into the pro ranks. The most successful side Olympia FC has ever had is the 1964 Team, under the auspices of Gino Ponte. This team won promotion to the National Football League and even today is a symbol of our very proud history, one we often tend to forget.When Gino Ponte, a former player, helped establish the NFL Second Division in 1961, Olympia was the first club to come forward and join this exciting venture. The Club performed well in the NFL (North), never finishing lower than sixth position.The NFL was an exciting league in that professional overseas players would often play in our respective leagues as well, due to the South African Football League not running simultaneously with our English counterparts as we do now.
One of the most memorable games was playing against Durban City at Canova Stadium with Olympia winning 2-1.
Dr Giunchi although President of Olympia FC for many years, always preferred the back seat, forever giving credit to everyone else but himself. He continued to oversee the Teams and the League in a managerial way, but never interfered with the Coaches or team selections. He followed the team in its early stages and rates the 1964 Team the BEST TEAM EVER for obvious reasons. Never again has Olympia FC enjoyed the successes of the 1964 squad, but its successes live on in our minds and in our hearts. The 1960's Olympia FC team under Manager Gino Ponte was an exciting team to watch. Their games were right royal family affairs with sons Paolo and Roberto participating and mum Mrs Ponte attending to all the catering that took place below the grandstands, selling hotdogs, beers and snacks to the many supporters. In addition to this, the Ponte’s with their own lawnmower did the cutting of the grass.
Ario Canova a self made business man and sports enthusiast pledged his financial support and this support was largely responsible for our success and for the building of our stadium. 1964 was our year of Destiny. With the Committee wanting to strengthen the team, an ex-English 1st Division player was thrust at them. However things did not particularly work out, and due to the great expense on this star player, the Committee made it known that it could not support the rest of the players to the same extent. Olympia, with their great team spirit after the disappearance of their star player went on to win 12 consecutive games and the league. From here, 5 teams from different parts of the country were involved in a playoff for their right to play in the 1st Division. This took place in Pretoria and after a week of strain tension and human effort emerged undisputed victors and went on to the Premier league.The expectations of all the people involved in promotion differed considerably. Olympia employed a Mozambican Coach who travelled to Italy to bring back an entire new team. Upon his return he arrived with a mixture of nationalities and attempted to put them together with the existing players, this created an unsatisfactory situation. At the end of the season, after finishing third from the bottom, the Coach was dismissed. In 1966 a new Committee was formed with great ambition. Substantial financial backing was guaranteed and the service of Mario Tuani as Coach was accepted. That year Olympia produced the results that the public expected, finishing in 7th position. Mr Tomassini ran the financial part of the club, but pulled out when he realised the Club wasn't financially viable. This added to the decline of Olympia and its supporters switched their support to newly promoted Powerlines.
In 1967 Olympia was relegated. Olympia was relegated in quick succession and ended up playing in the TFL 3rd Division on Saturday afternoons. In 1969 Dr Giunchi recalled Gino Ponte & Phil Snoyman back to the Club to help the Club regain it's popularity. In 1971 Olympia trained by Atkinson – Susanna combination finished 2nd and in 1973 finished 3rd. The Olympia team of 1973 was sponsored by Fiat for 3 years, and as a sign of recognition, Olympia was often referred to as Olympia Fiat. In 1974 Gino Ponte formed the breakaway League, the Transvaal Central League and as time progressed gained support from other prominent people. During the 70’s while Olympia continued in the now National Football League 2nd Division, smaller Italian Clubs were being formed. Due to the now ever growing Italian Club, these small Italian teams referred to the Italian Sporting Club, and in specific Canova Stadium as their home. One such team was Ceccato FC. Under the auspices of Giovanni Tizzone, Ceccato FC who had changed their name from Lucy’s Motors played in the Commercial Football League on Sunday mornings.
In 1974 Ceccato FC gained promotion and moved to Southern Transvaal Football Association Division 1.
In 1978, one of the most memorable games was Ceccato FC vs. Lusitano in the quarterfinals of the Castle Cup. At halftime Ceccato FC was winning 1-0, goal courtesy of Rocco Ancarola. Gigi Congia was the Manager at the time. Despite Ceccato FC’s efforts Lusitano won the game 4-1. Marco di Giovampaolo was the Goalkeeper for Lusitano, whom the year before had been sold by Ceccato FC. Marco di Giovampaolo later went on to play for the likes of Jomo Cosmos and Orlando Pirates.
In 1982 Olympia FC folded and the remaining players moved to Ceccato FC, Adriatica and Azzurri FC. Ceccato FC officially became known as Ceccato Olympia FC, as a symbol of affection to the Italian Club, the Italian Community and Dr Giunchi. This decision was widely approved by both Joe Tizzone & Gennaro Arena whom assisted Joe wherever and whenever possible. Maurizio di Giovampaolo who had been coaching in the Zambuk League was called in to assist Ceccato Olympia to regain their previous glory. The team was sponsored by Sabatini Panelbeaters and was playing in the NPSL. It was a hard league especially since Ceccato Olympia was running away with the League. The League Hierarchy couldn’t believe that Ceccato Olympia could’ve been that good, and ordered them to replay the first part of the season which they did, Joe Tizzone was not only involved in football while living in South Africa but was a Sports Administrator. Although his passion has always been football, While in South Africa, Joe's home was a tribute to Italy and Italian Soccer, now in Italy, at Kyalami Ranch, the Sports facility he now runs, in his Office, he pays tribute to South Africa and to the many happy events and triumphs he celebrated with Olympia FC, and Ceccato FC in particular. His walls are adorned with photographs of people he still fondly talks about. Joe's contribution to football not only at Olympia but to South African football itself bears testament in the four box files he keenly showed, but refused to part with. Now officially called Ceccato Olympia FC, the rivalry between the different Italian Clubs was becoming more and more evident. While Ceccato Olympia began on their downward spiral, now playing in the Amateur ranks, with professional football now firmly out of our minds, it became a struggle for survival. On the verge of almost collapsing altogether, and with the insistence of the Main Club, that football was not really needed, and that the soccer fields would make a “wonderful” vegetable patch, this after the Club itself was built on the successes of Olympia Football Club, Gennaro Arena, the then President took drastic measures to save the Club. In 1988 Gennaro Arena officially requested the Southern Transvaal Association to drop Ceccato Olympia FC to the Division 4, in a quest to start from scratch and rebuild the Club he has always believed in. In addition, Gennaro proceeded to become unpopular as in his quest to rebuild Ceccato Olympia FC, he requested the smaller Italian teams such as Azzurri and Adriatica to either join up with Ceccato Olympia FC or clear the fields.
From 1992 – 1995 with the merging of the two Italian Clubs, namely Italian Sporting Club of Bedfordview and the Italian Bowling Club of Linbro, at the insistence of the Main Club, for the first time in our History, the name Olympia fell away as our Section became known as Italian Club Ceccato.
In 1995 while Italian Club Ceccato was enjoying one of their best seasons, behind the scenes, Dr Ugo Giunchi together with Italian Sporting Club’s Shareholders donated the grounds to the Italian Club, effectively becoming a non-profit organization. 1997 Ceccato FC 2nd team played in the Final of the Cup with high expectations. Unfortunately they lost in the final against Corinthians. However a fantastic achievement for a team that is widely regarded as the “second fiddle” to the 1st team.
In 1997 saw the birth of ladies outdoor. Under the auspices of Cathy Barecchia, an enthusiastic group of 22 girls began to play football. Cathy’s main objective was to bring the girls together, to help them appreciate the game of football and to enable the girls to enjoy themselves. Claudio D’Aguanno & Stefano Battaglia were the Coaches and together enjoyed many hours of laughter, training and playing football. In 1998 with the arrival of Coach Maurizio di Giovampaolo, a man synonymous with our successes of the 60’s a decision was made to return to our original name, Olympia Football Club. In 1998 Dr Giunchi officially retired from Football, bringing to a close 40 glorious years of commitment, love, loyalty and emotion.
In recognition of his outstanding commitment and loyalty to Olympia Football Club, through the decades, Dr Giunchi was named Life Member of Olympia Football Club, in addition the Ugo Giunchi Floating Trophy is handed out to the most outstanding team at our Annual Prize giving that takes place in September of every year.
Olympia FC Goes Global - London, UK
Darren Burke was a member of Olympia FC from 2016 to 2019. When he made the decision to immigrate to London with his family, he wanted to replicate the rich history and culture of the club here in the UK. He also wanted to create a familiar home for those who have made a similar journey. In May 2019 with the consent of Olympia FC Chairman Giovanni Di Benedetto and the standing committee in Johannesburg, London Olympia FC was born.
In our first season (2019/2020) which was disrupted by various storms and then eventually Covid-19 we played in the Wimbledon & District League.
In March 2020 our first committee was formed and we were awarded The FA Charter Standard. We have grown to two teams with the additional team playing in the Surrey South Eastern Combination and the other team continues to play in the Wimbledon & District League.