Brothers Joey and Josh Penello have been playing soccer since they were 4 and 6 years old, starting in the house league program at the Maple Leaf Cavan soccer organization that was still in its infancy. At the age of ten and eleven, they headed to Peterborough to play in a competitive league to develop their skills, which were quite apparent by that time. This was not surprising given the family background. Father Alex played competitively and started the first competitive team for Maple Leaf Cavan Football Club in 1997. Alex has coached ever since, while his wife Angela has applied her significant administrative skills to keeping track of almost 1500 current players in the local club.
While playing in Peterborough, both boys were scouted and selected for a regional team, playing in Ajax and Vaughan. By the age of 14, they were playing for the provincial team. Scouts recruited them for the Toronto FC, and for several years they played for the club’s junior academy in Toronto. It was a grueling and competitive program where both boys thrived. The culture of the farm team program taught them much about the sport, but also about discipline, respect and sacrifice. Competitive soccer also introduced them to different cultures because of the international background of other team members and through the travel opportunities provided by their teams as they competed around the world from the United States, to France and Switzerland.
After a change in coaching philosophy at the top, both players headed home to pursue post-secondary education at Fleming College. Joey is graduating this year with a nursing diploma, while Josh is returning for a final year to complete a business program with a sports orientation. During their Fleming years, they applied their soccer skills to their college team. They played for the Fleming Knights where they both earned MVP awards and were recognized by the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association as Soccer All-Stars.
These athletes were recognized last month not for their athletic achievements which are significant, but because of their efforts to give back to their community. They have been helping MLCFC to develop their competitive program and currently run the club’s competitive winter training program known as Futsal. They are also providing technical coaching support to the club’s competitive teams. Coaches invite the brothers to run practises to allow players to hone specific skills. The role reversal has worked well, and local players are pleased to receive training from such accomplished players.
The club recently launched a regional men’s league where Josh, Joey and their brother Matt have been recruited as players with their Dad Alex as coach. Josh and Joey have not been shy about recruiting players from previous competitive teams to join the league, and their 4-0 record so far has brought some attention to the team. Having spent their teenage years in the big city, Josh and Joey are delighted to be back in the area reconnecting with old friends and keeping the family soccer enthusiasm alive and well. Congratulations! KG