Redmen soccer star Massimo Di Ioia was introduced to the beautiful game at an early age and has lived for the sport ever since. The 26-year-old hails rom Saint Leonard, Quebec, and has travelled the world with the Canadian Junior National Team, and also had the opportunity to wear the maple leaf on his chest during U-20 World Cup. In addition to this Di Ioia has lived the life of a professional footballer during stints with the Montreal Impact and Trois-Rivieres Attak before joining the Redmen this year.
“I was probably five, six years old when I started and from there just grew up loving the game,” said Di Ioia. “I’m a boy from Montreal so playing the Impact was an ambition of mine and I eventually fulfilled that dream.”
Di Ioia’s transition back to school was prompted by the lack of certainty and security in the world of professional athletics. As a member of the Impact he was just another cog in the machine and was at the behest of upper management. Playing as a professional, there was always the possibility of being called into office one day and told that he was being sold from the team. Even worse, he could have been let go without a job.
“[I just needed] something concrete to fall back on,” Di Ioia explained.
Before playing for McGill, Di Ioia was subject the the CIS’ 365-day rule, in which student athletes must wait one full year from their last game as a professional before they can play for their varsity team. Athletes have certain peaks and primes during their playing career, and a year long absence from athletic competition can prove to be detrimental, despite the understandable reasoning behind the rule.
“I think it’s logical that a player has to wait one full year to be eligible for the program,” said Di Ioia. “Yet, in a certain way I still have a question mark to it because at the end of the day you’re preventing a player from representing his [university], and I don’t know if its positive or negative for the player.”
The first year physical education student is returning to his studies following an extended absence from the classroom. Like many other freshmen, he faces difficulty as he tackles the rigors of university course load. In addition to academics, a varsity athlete takes on a burden that makes an already tough adjustment even tougher.
“I think I’m learning the hard way,” said Di Ioia. “It’s a very difficult transition and you have to be very organized […] Trainings are very demanding [and] school is very demanding here at McGill. If you’re not on top of your studies, you’ll fall behind very quickly.”
His arrival to the Redmen has been integral to the team’s growth and success this season as he has provided not only tremendous talent but a veteran presence to a squad with 17 rookies.
“I’m always open to helping the guys […] If they need help I’m always there for them […] on and off the field where I can guide them and lead them seeing as I have been exposed to a certain level [of…] experience professionally,” said Di Ioia.
In addition to this, he has been involved with coaching locally in the Montreal area with young programs. The effect it has had on his game has been profound. The most impactful benefit he has noticed deals with his interactions with his fellow teammates and his coaching staff.
“I think it has made me understand players much better.” he said. “When I was just playing and coaches would make decisions, I wouldn’t understand why [I was not playing] or what [I was] doing wrong,” said Di Ioia.
Looking to the future he believes that soccer – and athletics as a whole – will continue t be a part of his life.
“I’d love to stay in soccer [as a coach],” Di Ioia said. “I think this degree can help […]. If that doesn’t pan out I think I’d be able to be a good [physical education] teacher one day.”
The Redmen have had an up-and-down season in which they have played strongly but have suffered from inconsistency and sudden lapses. Nonetheless, Di Ioia is currently the RSEQ’s leading goal scorer and is optimistic about his squad’s prospects for the rest of the season.
“Right now we’re in fourth position. I think we’re a solid team that has competed with everyone in the league. We’re not far away from any team and we shouldn’t have doubts about ourselves […] Once we reach the playoffs it’s a brand new season.”
Interview conducted by Remi Lu. Visit www.mcgilltribune.com/sportspodcast to listen to the entire interview.