Mario Di Bartolomeo is an astute businessman with a burning passion for soccer. Many claim to have served Canadian and local soccer to the level he has, but Mario stands alone in having dipped as deep into his pockets, and in providing the dedication of as much energy. Mario immigrated to Canada from his native Abruzzo in 1960 and ever since he has been a builder and woner of many clubs. He is also a Past President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce.
In 1970 Mario started to get involved with the OICSL Ontario Champions, Hamilton Italo-Canadians, bought the Chandelier Banquet Center and became a co-owner of the Italo Canadians in 1972 as they made their foray in the professional ranks of the National Soccer League. Mario continued his financing and running of the Italo Canadians in the National Soccer League through the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, while others called it a day. In a bold move in 1981, with the Hamilton youth system growing in leaps and bounds, Mario thought it was due time to drop the ethnic name, and called the team Hamilton Steelers. This was the same name that a previous team, competing in the hay day of the Eastern Canadian Professional Soccer League, had used from 1961-1964. That 1981 Steelers team, coached by Carlo Del Monte and known as the “Dirty Dozen”, won the NASL treble of League, League Cup, and Playoffs.
In 1983, Mario’s Steelers joined the Canadian Professional Soccer League. As much better funded teams from big centers like Toronto and Montreal crumbled financially around him, Mario’s resolve was to finish the season. The Steelers that won the Eastern Conference were victims of some very bad officiating, and lost the final to the local Edmonton team, in a season cut short.
In preparation of a new promising professional league the year after, (the Canadian Soccer League), Mario, with the assistance of coach Kevin Grant, Manager Mauro Di Pietro and Vice-President Frank Riga assembled one of the finest amateur teams in this area, winning the Ontario Cup and the Canadian championship in 1986. The team was stacked with a number of local players from Canada’s U20 World Cup team.
As a member of the Canadian Soccer League the following year, and with the experience under their belt, the 1987 Hamilton Steelers immediately became Eastern Canadian Champions and Canadian Finalists, a feat they repeated 3 other times. Providing the CSL stability, and becoming the sound voice of Canadian professional soccer, Mario was became the League’s president. Strongly against his will the league expanded and met its demise.
Mario was instrumental in giving the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Steelers Soccer Club, national status, through radio, television, and newspaper media.
Hamilton is very fortunate indeed to have Mario Di Bartolomeo and his contributions to the game of soccer.