In early November, Tom Partalas took his rightful place among the city’s most significant sports figures, both past and present, as the local soccer builder was inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame – in an induction ceremony event at the Western Fair District.
Known to many simply as ‘Mr. Soccer,’ Tom has served the London soccer community in all areas – and at all levels – since the late 1960’s. He immigrated to the Forest City in 1967 from Greece, where he was born, and he had an immediate impact on the soccer pitch in London, becoming an all-star player for the Western University Mustangs and playing professionally with the London City Soccer Club (1969-70).
In 1971, along with John Henderson, Tom organized the first youth competitive soccer league in London (today, more than 17,000 young people play soccer in the city). He transitioned to coaching minor soccer in the 1970s, and did so for more than two decades.
In 1994, he began refereeing, which he still does to this day. That same year, Tom became an executive member of the Southwest Optimist Indoor Soccer League. He was a member of the Mayors’ Task Force on soccer in 1998, which ultimately developed 16 new outdoor soccer fields, and in 2001 he served as a venue leader for soccer when London hosted the Canada Summer Games that year.
Tom was part of a group of members (the Southwest Optimist Club) who took over an indoor soccer facility in east London and turned it into a highly-successful indoor sports centre. And he was the driving force behind the creation of the $14.5 million BMO Centre in London, which opened in 2011 has become the hub for indoor soccer in London (and which recently underwent an expansion). He’s the long-time President of the London Optimist Sports Centre, which operates the BMO Centre.
Tom has earned many honours along the way, including: a Centre Circle Award from the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA), in 2010, acknowledging his outstanding contributions to growing the game; a local Pillar Community Award (2011); a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (in 2012); and a spot on the City of London’s Honour Roll (2017).
And now, Tom has earned his rightful place in the London Sports Hall of Fame. It’s a prestigious honour, and it’s one that is well-deserved for a tremendous builder of soccer in this city.