How Former Pro Soccer Player Julian Uccello Makes the Most of his “New Normal” Life
For Julian Uccello, being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2011 was a shock to his career as a pro soccer player in Italy, and to his identity. How a person who had been a fully functioning athlete reacted to his new fate is a story of the best possible positive approach to turn his misfortune into a new way of life that could benefit as many people as possible.
Today, Uccello works with StateView Homes Ltd. in Woodbridge, Ontario, as vice president of operations and sales but part of his mission is to be the lead ambassador for MS4MS (Mission Stadiums for Multiple Sclerosis), a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the disease at sports stadiums.
Fundraising efforts go toward helping the families of loved ones who have the disease, and to the advancement of research at Johns Hopkins Project Restore MS Research Centre in Baltimore, Maryland, in the hopes of finding a cure.
“I was inspired by Dennis Lindsay, the owner of The Athlete’s Gym, a sport-specific training centre for pro athletes on Chesswood Drive in Toronto, Julian says. “Dennis has been my trainer, a good friend and like a second father to me for over 25 years. He came to me and said he wanted to do something to help find a cure for MS. He’s donating what he raises in the Badwater Marathon, the world’s toughest foot race, from April 1 to 16. He’ll cover 30km a day. I walk with a cane, and I will be happy to cover 2km. It will be tough, but I’ve always gotten through the difficult tests that life has handed me. This certainly means a lot to me.”
Born in Toronto in 1986, Julian played youth soccer for clubs in Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Kleinburg, Nobleton and Woodbridge.
After moving to Italy, he played over 300 games and scored more than 150 goals during his professional career, initially playing for AC Milan (2003-2004), then Savona (loan 2004-2005), AC Sansovino (2005-2006), Sansepolcro (on loan 2005), Forte dei Marmi (2006-2007), Rivarolese (2007-2008), Casale (2008-2009), FC Crotone (2009-2012).
“I dreamed of playing soccer from the time I was three years old,” Julian says, “so I was living my dream as a professional athlete. Then one day in 2011, I awoke with numbness and pain in my right arm. Medical tests confirmed that I had MS. I was devastated.”
Returning to Canada, Julian struggled with depression. “I had always based my identity on soccer,” he explained. “So, I felt like I could never be normal again. I remember talking with Dennis for hours, helping me realize what I was feeling was real, but that I should deal with it in a positive way. With his help and the unwavering support of my family, I accepted my new normal, and now realize people suffering from MS can still make valuable contributions to society.”
Julian Uccello’s family includes wife Ashley, two-year old Alessia, his parents, Frank and Bartholina (Bart); twin brothers Michael (who is attending Toronto Film School and who directed a recent film documenting Julian’s experiences) and Luca (who is currently with Toronto FC II and the Canadian National Team); sister Melissa and Brother In-Law Carlo; and nieces and nephews, “I used to think of Italy as my home, but now, my home is where my family lives. I’m proud to call Canada home.”
A big part of Julian’s life is his involvement with real estate developers, StateView Homes Ltd. When he returned to Canada, he says he thought all he knew was soccer, but he became a real estate agent like his dad. Then in 2013, he joined StateView Homes’ sales department and has climbed the ladder to become Vice President of Operations & Sales. He has always worked hard and long days which he continues to do, but “now I am totally devoted to spending as much quality time as possible with my family.” Pre-COVID, he was also involved in coaching youth soccer for the U-15 Woodbridge Strikers ranked 2nd Nationally. “I look forward to coaching again once this terrible pandemic is behind us,” he says. Founded in 2010 by principals who have 35+ years of collective industry experience, StateView Homes is dedicated to crafting distinctive niche communities that speak to homeowners’ individuality, design preferences and lifestyle aspirations.
He is also proud of the philanthropic work which is an important part of the culture at StateView, including their support of Toronto’s SickKids Hospital and MS4MS. “We’re dedicated to helping families by creating exceptional new home communities and supporting families in need in the greater community,” Julian said. The company’s newest residential community is called BEA in Barrie, ON. When the community is launched this Spring, for every home sale, StateView will donate $5,000 towards a dedicated charity.
In April of this year, he established a ‘GoFundMe’ page to raise funds in a special “walk”. From April 1 through 16, he was determined to walk 2 kilometres each day, with all donations to support his effort will go to MS4MS.
Besides family and work, what does the future hold? “I plan to spread more awareness for MS by being in the public eye even more,” he says. “I want to encourage people who have MS to challenge themselves and live out new dreams, and to inspire the general public to donate toward finding a cure someday. As for my own life, I continue with physiotherapy, and I envision going for a walk with my daughter and carrying her down the stairs without being afraid of falling. I’ve had trainers my whole life; now it’s self-motivation.”
As MS4MS is a sports-oriented charity, Julian feels an affinity with the organization. For those first two weeks of April, he will push himself to his physical limit and will share live videos and photos of his walk. “I’m so grateful for all I’ve been given in life,” he explains. “Now I want to give back even more. We must never give up on finding a cure.”
Mission Stadiums for Multiple Sclerosis (MS4MS) was funded in 2011 in a college apartment at Southern CT State University Today, it is a nationally recognized non-profit making big impacts in the lives of MS warriors and their families. This registered non-profit organization raises awareness of MS at all sports stadium while raising funds for families with MS warriors and the advancement of research at the Johns Hopkins Project Restore MS Research Center in the hopes of finding a cure. There, researchers also try new clinical trials that help doctors come up with exciting treatment strategies, novel therapies and lifestyle modifications. That hospital is a leader in the field, with experts who are dedicated to providing targeted diagnoses and treatments.
Julian played youth soccer for clubs in Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Kleinburg, Nobleton and Woodbridge. He played for TFC II, whose home games were in York Region, north of Toronto. After moving to Italy, he played over 300 games and scored more than 150 goals during his professional career.