History

Early years (1968–1980)

Serbian White Eagles FC in 1970

The Serbian White Eagles were established in 1968 in Hamilton, Ontario as Hamilton Serbia and played under that name for a time. In these beginnings, the club was a semi-professional club until joining the professional ranks in 1970 by becoming a member of the National Soccer League, eventually relocating to Toronto and becoming the Serbian White Eagles. In the first season, former Canadian national team player Alan Harvey was both a player and coach of the team.

In 1973, the team fielded both an outdoor team and an indoor team which featured guest players Trifun Mihailovic from Red Star Belgrade and the legendary Dragoslav Sekularac. Prior to the 1973 season, the team imported nine players from Yugoslavia. The head coach was former FK BASK midfielder (and member of the Yugoslav national team) Mladen Saric. Tragedy struck the team on June 10, 1973 when 25-year-old forward Alexander Zivaljevic was killed in a car accident on the Queen Elizabeth Way in Toronto. The driver of the car, 24-year-old Niko Skrvic, was also killed when he lost control of the car. Injured in the crash were Eagles players Verko Mitrovic and Ljubo Dimic. 30-year-old Mitrovic suffered a crushed chest and was paralyzed from the waist down while 26-year-old Dimic suffered a fractured skull and a kidney injury.

The Serbian White Eagles finished first in the NSL Regular Season in 1974. In the match for the champion of Canada, they defeated the Calgary Kickers in Toronto. As the champions of Canada, they qualified for the North American championship where they were supposed to play the NSL champion Dallas Tornado. At the request of the NSL, Dallas surrendered the matches without playing.

The Serbian White Eagles qualified for the 1975 CONCACAF Champions’ Cup (becoming the first Canadian soccer club to do so) where they faced Mexican team CF Monterrey in the first round. The Serbian White Eagles lost 2-0 in Monterrey and in Toronto the match (while the result was 1-1) was suspended after a brawl on the pitch. The coach of the Serbian White Eagles in 1974 was Dragan “Don” Popovic, while in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup games they were led by Dragoslav Sekularac as player-coach. In addition to Sekularac, Miroslav Vardic (a former Yugoslav national team player) also played for the club that year.

In the 1970s, the average crowd was between ten and fifteen thousand people per game. Some of the other players who played for the Serbian White Eagles in that period are Momcilo “Mike” Stojanovic, Saban Romanovic, Milovan “Mike” Bakic, Dragan Jankovic, Deni Denkovski, Lazar “Laza” Erski, Svetozar “Cveja” Bosnjakovic, Blagoje Tamindzic, Pera Stefanovic, Milan Miladinovic, Nikola Ivetic, Mike Skoric, Tibor Gemeri, Ivan Mrsic, Josip Ognjanac, John Fahy, Denny Vaninger, Pedro Kozak, Anders Yrfeldt and David Demaine. The management (among others) consisted of Kosta “Ken” Stanojevich, Gojko Paic and Milos Jaukovic.

In 1974, the Serbian White Eagles beat Vardar Skopje 1-0 at the Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, a team that was then in sixth place in the Yugoslav First League. The Serbian White Eagles also played 3-3 with Belenenses from Portugal in 1974, and the All-Star team of the NSL (where more than half of the players were from the Serbian White Eagles) lost to Arsenal by a score of 1-0.

In the summer of 1976, former Fulham and Republic of Ireland national team player John Dempsey arrived from Chelsea and served as player-coach of the Serbian White Eagles.

In 1981, the Serbian White Eagles withdrew from the NSL and became an amateur club in the process.

Rebirth and instant success (2006)

The Serbian White Eagles with the Serbian flag

They remained an amateur club until February 2006, when they joined the Canadian Soccer League, becoming one of the most successful expansion clubs in the league’s history. Prior to the start of the 2006 Canadian Soccer League season, it was announced that the legendary Dragoslav Sekularac would become head coach of the expansion side with first assistant being Stevan Mojsilovic. Other big names were brought in as well to help re-build the team. These included (among others): club legend Mike Bakic as president of the club, the director of player personnel was another club legend Mike Stojanovic, the general manager was Kosta “Ken” Stanojevich while the director of football was Nenad Stojkov. This was Sekularac’s second stint with the Serbian White Eagles having already played for and coached them in the past. With seasoned internationals being brought over from Serbia and the rest of Europe, the team was set. Also formed was an organized supporters group called the Ultra Serbs which would go on to follow the club both at home and away.

The roster assembled by Sekularac consisted of players with European experience and CSL veterans. The players brought in were Sasa Viciknez, Dusan Belic, Sinisa Ninkovic, Dragan Radovic, Niki Budalic, Bozo Milic, Uros Predic, Nenad Stojcic, Mirko Medic, Gabriel Pop, Alex Braletic, and Marc Jankovic. Sekularac’s stint, though short-lived, was not without success. The club was a hit in its first season, finishing first in the International Conference with 55 points and first overall (tallying both conferences). In the regular season, Sekularac guided the club to 17 wins, 1 loss and 4 ties with a whopping goal differential of 66:13. The team finished with the best offensive and defensive record. A formidable striking partnership consisting of Pop and Viciknez was formed with Pop finishing as the league’s top goalscorer followed by Viciknez as runner up. For their efforts Pop received the CSL Golden Boot, while Viciknez was named the CSL MVP.

The Eagles advanced to the knockout-stage, easily beating Toronto Supra Portuguese in the quarterfinals with a score of 3–0 and also easily defeating the Windsor Border Stars in the semifinal 6–1. Their fairy-tale season was brought to an end by the Italia Shooters in the CSL Championship final where Italia performed a miracle by scoring the lone goal to claim the championship. Though the Serbian White Eagles fell short they were embraced by the Serbian Canadian community and averaged the highest attendance of any team in the CSL.

League powerhouse and championship (2007–2008)

Canadian Soccer League champions, 2008

Some changes were made prior to the 2007 season with starting goalkeeper Dusan Belic promoted to player-coach while Dragan Bakoc (vice-president of the club in 2006) was made president. Continuing Serbian traditions, the club chose to have a slava, eventually deciding on November 8 and Demetrius of Thessaloniki as patron saint. Belic was player-coach for a few months until he took up a scouting position in Slovenia. Belic was replaced in net by CSL veteran Arthur Zaslavski and by former Canadian under-17 international George Radan. Zaslavski and Radan rotated minutes but Radan got the notch when the playoffs started nearing. Then-assistant coach Sinisa Ninkovic (another 2006 alumnus) took up the head-coaching position but was replaced prior to the playoffs by Toronto Falcons coach Branko Pavlovic. Notable acquisitions were Uros Stamatovic, Osni Neto, Ricardo Munguia Perez, Zoran Kokot and Milan Kojic which proved to be key additions. In 2007, writer Prvoslav Vujcic wrote the anthem of the Serbian White Eagles.

Throughout the season, the Serbian White Eagles clinched their second consecutive division title, and once more averaged the highest attendance in the CSL. The club had five of its players including head coach Ninkovic selected for the All-Star game. In the first round of the postseason they faced the Windsor Border Stars, where they advanced to the next round with Budalic, and Kokot providing the goals in a 2–1 victory. Their opponents in the next round were Trois-Rivières Attak, where Kokot and Dragorad Milicevic contributed the goals in their 2–1 win. The victory marked their second consecutive championship final appearance, where they faced their rivals Toronto Croatia. Due to their heated rivalry and without an adequate stadium available in order to separate the fans, the league was forced to change the format to a two-leg game rather than the standard knockout. In the two-game final, the Serbian White Eagles were defeated by Toronto Croatia by a score of 4–1 on aggregate.

Prior to the 2008 season, the club continued its tradition of bringing over experienced coaches from Serbia as this time Milan Cancarevic was made head coach. The club introduced a new logo as well, integrating a traditional shield and eagle with a maple leaf design reflecting the Canadian team’s roots. Another notable event prior to the 2008 season was the formation of Serbian White Eagles fan clubs in the Serbian cities of Valjevo and Loznica. Notable imports were Caswain Mason, Darryl Gomez, Prince Ihekwoaba, Said Ali, and Diego Hernan Maradona (son of Lalo Maradona). The Serbian White Eagles qualified for the play-offs for the third straight season by finishing second in their division. In the preliminary round of the postseason they defeated the North York Astros by a score of 2–1. The Eagles then proceeded to beat the Italia Shooters in the semi-final by a relatively hefty score of 3–0 with goals coming from Budalic, Braletic, and Milos Scepanovic. In the final, the team used a 4-4-2 formation which finally gave them championship glory as they outlasted National Division champions Trois-Rivières Attak over a rain-drenched 120 minutes of extra time and penalty kicks to win the CSL championship 2–1 in the penalty shootout.

Consistent playoff contender (2009–2012)

In 2009, the club introduced a red jersey (blue was the secondary jersey in years previous), and hired the services of CSL Coach of the Year Rafael Carbajal with his assistant being Paolo Pacione.

On May 26, 2009, the Serbian White Eagles were chosen to play Toronto FC in a friendly match played behind closed doors at BMO Field. The match finished with a score of 1–1.

On August 7, 2009 in a pre-game ceremony, the Serbian White Eagles retired the number 9 which was worn by Mike Stojanovic while playing for the club from 1974 to 1975. This is the only number the club has retired.

The roster assembled by Carbajal was a mixture of seasoned veterans with several young prospects like Evan Milward, Selvin Lammie, and Jonathan Hurtis. Carbajal added more silverware to the club’s cabinet as they claimed their third International Division title, while posting the league’s best offensive record. Prior to the commencement of the postseason, Carbajal was released. His replacement was Dusan “Dusko” Prijic. In the initial stages of the playoffs the Eagles defeated TFC Academy 6–0 on aggregate. In the next round they defeated their rivals Toronto Croatia in order to have a repeat of the 2008 final against Trois-Rivières Attak. At the final game, playing a man short for most of the second half, Trois-Rivières took the game into overtime, then penalty kicks to win the CSL Championship at the BMO Field in Toronto on October 10, 2009. The game was scoreless through 90 minutes, then 30 minutes of overtime before Trois-Rivières outscored the Serbian White Eagles 3–2 in the penalty kick decider. At the conclusion of the season Viciknez received his second MVP award, while Medic won the Defender of the Year and Dan Pelc was named the Goalkeeper of the Year. Within their first four seasons, they become the second club in CSL history to reach the CSL Championship final in four consecutive seasons.

Former team captain Niki Budalic succeeded Prijic as head coach for the 2010 season. Notable additions were Milos Kocic (on loan from Toronto FC), Stefan Vukovic, Romanian forward Daniel Baston who came out of retirement to play for the club, Taylor Lord, and Shawn Brown. During the regular season, the team finished second in the standings with the best defensive record. In the first round of the postseason, the team – for the first time since its return to the league – failed to reach the championship final after suffering a defeat by the Brantford Galaxy. Though their senior team failed to claim any silverware their reserve team won the reserve championship title. Kocic was named the CSL Goalkeeper of the Year.

Uros Stamatovic retired in 2010 and was elevated to the position of head coach and brought in Boris Milicic. The 2011 season saw a decline in their performance as they finished fifth in the standings, but still managed to clinch a playoff berth. In the first round they defeated Brampton City United, but were eliminated in the second round against Capital City F.C.

In 2012, the club once again brought in seasoned internationals such as Zoran Rajovic, Vitomir Jelic, Macedonian international Aleksandar Stojanovski, Nikola Miodrag, former Jamaican national team player Richard West, and former Partizan players Ivan Stankovic and goalkeeper Aleksandar Radosavljevic. Serbian White Eagles qualified for the postseason by finishing sixth in the standings. The Serbian White Eagles made a good push beating a solid SC Toronto squad 1–0 in the quarterfinals only to lose 4–0 against Toronto Croatia in the next round, marking the second year in a row they were ousted in the semifinals.

Decline in performance and return to glory (2013–present)

Canadian Soccer League champions, 2016

The following two seasons, the club saw first round defeats in the playoffs.

In 2015, the Serbian White Eagles signed former Partizan players Radenko Kamberovic and Bojan Sljivancanin. In that season, the club once again experienced glory as they won the regular season title. In the play-offs, they beat London City 1–0 with a goal from Branislav Vukomanovic, but their pursuit of the championship ended after a 3–2 loss to Waterloo.

Former team captain Mirko Medic was assigned the head coach position for the 2016 season. He secured them their eleventh straight playoff berth by finishing fourth in the standings. Their road to the championship was marked with a 1–0 victory over Toronto Atomic FC with Milos Scepanovic recording the lone goal. In the second round they defeated FC Ukraine United 1–0 in order mark their sixth championship final appearance. Their opponents in the final were Hamilton City SC. During the match, Hamilton took the lead at the 14th minute with the Serbian White Eagles equalizing at the 59th minute to send the match to extra time where Scepanovic scored the winner to claim the club’s second CSL championship title.

In 2017, the club finished second in the regular season but was eliminated in the semifinals by the York Region Shooters. In 2018, the club qualified for the playoffs but was unfortunately eliminated in the quarterfinals.

In 2017 and 2018, the club had a futsal team in the Arena Premier League under the name Serbia.

In 2019, the club was eliminated in the quarterfinals by SC Waterloo Region.

In June 2020, the club signed a cooperation agreement with FK Sloboda Uzice.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the opening of the 2020 season resulting in the league ultimately releasing a modified shortened schedule which began in early August. A playoff berth was secured by the Serbian White Eagles, which marked their fifteenth consecutive season of clinching a playoff berth since their return to the professional scene in 2006. The Serbian White Eagles produced the best offensive record in the regular season but was eliminated in the first round of the championship playoffs to FC Vorkuta.

In the 2021 season, the Serbian White Eagles finished fifth in the standings with a single-point difference between BGH City. As BGH City was considered ineligible to compete in the ProSound Cup, their playoff berth was given to the Serbian White Eagles who were again defeated in the opening round by Vorkuta.

In 2022, the club claimed the regular season title once again and would advance to the semi-finals where they were eliminated by FC Continentals (formerly known as Vorkuta).