Legendary Durham College (DC) soccer coach Vaso Vujanovic is being inducted into the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame.
City council announced Vujanovic’s nomination along with five other inductees on Jan. 27.
Vujanovic, now 79, grew up playing soccer and had his first coaching experience in his home country, Yugoslavia.
“I was in the army for two years and at that time, the general asked me to coach,” he says. “I was a soccer nut.”
Vujanovic immigrated to Canada in 1966 in pursuit of a better-paying job. His journey led him to Oshawa, where he attended Durham College to study business and learn English.
In 1973, after securing a finance job at DC, he helped start the school’s soccer program with then athletic director, David Stewart.
Vujanovic served as head coach of the Durham Lords men’s soccer team for 17 years, finishing with 128 victories against just 35 losses and securing 12 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) medals, two of them gold.
“Every person brings something new so you grab the best and throw the worst…and you slowly progress,” he says. “Our whole life is a work in progress.”
Vujanovic was raised by foster parents and was taught to work for everything.
“If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. And that’s in my blood,” he says. “You have to push yourself and go…never stop.”
He also coached the women’s soccer team at DC from 1998-2008, leading them to 119 victories against 37 losses and winning five OCAA championships.
Along the way, he also coached at Ontario Tech University.
“Even now, when some of my employees (players) say it’s hard…well, whole lifetime is hard,” Vujanovic says. “It depends on how you perceive that challenge and how you adjust to the world and I enjoy it very much.”
According to Ken Babcock, DC athletic director, Vujanovic was not only a great coach, but also “intrinsically involved” with the college and contributed to it in many ways.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone as honest and integrity-based, as patient and calm, and as knowledgeable about coaching and about the game of soccer as Vaso,” he says.
Babcock says Vujanovic’s win percentage is second to none in Canada.
“Opposing coaches always love to compete against him,” he recalls. “And that’s the ultimate testament to a coach…how other coaches in other college programs view you.
“We’ve appreciated his involvement with our soccer program for a long time. So much that we named our soccer field after him.”
The soccer pitch on campus was named ‘Vaso’s Field’ in 2005, even before Vujanovic retired.
The soccer coach was also inducted into the Durham College Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 and the OCAA Hall of Fame in 2011.
Vujanovic will be formally inducted into the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame at the 35th induction ceremony May 27 at the Tribute Communities Centre.