Michael John Charles Balson
September 9, 1947 – May 30, 2019
Michael John Charles Balson, 71, of Bridport, England, passed peacefully from death to life in Jesus Christ on May 30, 2019 from complications associated with Lewy Body Dementia. His final days were spent surrounded by his loving wife, children, and friends. There will be two memorial services held to celebrate his remarkable life, one on June 15 in Orlando (4pm, Banfield Funeral Home, 420 FL-434 Winter Springs, FL 32708), and one on June 22 in Atlanta (2pm, HM Patterson & Son, Oglethorpe Hill Chapel, 4550 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30319).
Born Sept. 9, 1947, Mike is the oldest child of Donald & Joan Balson. He is survived by his wife, Julia, his children, Melanie and Oliver, his mother, Joanne, and siblings, Richard, Christina and Jane, and his five beloved grandchildren; Sydney, Sierra, Maddox, Zoe, and Judah.
Mike enjoyed a happy childhood in Bridport, where his father owned and operated R.J. Balson & Son, the family butcher shop, which has been in operation since 1515, most likely the oldest butcher shop in the world. He spent time helping in the butcher shop and enjoying cricket, water polo, rugby, and football (soccer). He captained the football team at Colfox school, was the youngest player ever to play for Bridport FC, joined the Exeter City youth team, and was selected to the England Schoolboys team. In 1963, at age 17, he signed as a professional for Exeter City Football Club. From 1963-1974, Mike played over 300 matches for the Exeter City first team, during which, he was awarded his English F. A. coaching license and captained over 200 matches.
In 1974, Mike signed for Highlands Park FC and relocated to South Africa until 1979. He was selected to simultaneously play and coach the team for 3 years, kept a record-breaking run of 44 games unbeaten, and won the South African Cup three times, the League Cup three times, and the Coca Cola Cup twice. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment during his time in South Africa was his pivotal role ending segregation in professional football by building an inter-racial squad.
In 1979, Mike signed with the Atlanta Chiefs of the North American Soccer League and relocated to Atlanta, GA with his young family. He would ultimately dedicate his career to promoting the game of soccer in the Atlanta area. During this time, he played against some of the world’s greatest players, including Pele, George Best, & Franz Beckenbauer. He coached at Georgia State University for 3 years, developed coaching programs for new coaches, and worked with the Special Olympics. In 1982, Mike was player/assistant coach for the Georgia Generals of the ASL, and from 83-85, coached at Dekalb Jr College. In 1986-87, Mike played his final pro season for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, capping off a 25-year career.
From 1985-1990, Mike focused on player development, coaching, & private camps. His passion for the game resulted in the renowned “Mike Balson’s Soccer Academy,” the very first indoor/outdoor soccer facility in the Southeast. The Academy produced and developed much of the best young talent in the game, including the “Steamers,” a top club in Georgia, and several U.S. national players. Mike’s successful coaching career continued for many years with numerous club teams, including Georgia Perimeter College from 1993-1996.
From 1990-2001, Mike continued to promote the game as Assistant Commissioner for the USISL professional league. He was responsible for developing new team franchises on the East Coast, working with the MLS to identify talented draft candidates, setting league regulations, and resolve conflicts. From 2001-2003, Mike served as General Manager of the Atlanta Silverbacks, rebuilding a team to a +500-record focusing on signing local talent.
Mike’s love for the game, vast experience as a player and coach, active lifestyle, and his calm disposition made for a natural transition into the world of refereeing. While he began refereeing in the early ‘80’s, the 2000’s saw his most prolific period as a referee in the SEC & ACC. In the post season, Mike had the honor of refereeing the 1999 NCAA Div. 1 Women’s College Cup Final and the 2002, 2004, and 2005 NCAA Div. 1 Men’s College Cup Finals.
Mike was inducted into the United Soccer League Hall of Fame (2002), the GSSA Soccer Hall of Fame (2003), and finally, the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials (NISOA) Hall of Fame in 2006.
As a player, coach, and referee, Mike always personified professionalism and respected the game, his players, opponents, and colleagues. Apart from all of Mike’s professional accomplishments and honors, it is perhaps his character and influence on so many people that will be remembered the most. He was a man of strong faith who loved his Lord, his family, and others. Mike & his wife Julia spent over 30 years ministering to prisoners in Atlanta, GA and also spent 20 years ministering to youth at Georgia Regional Hospital.
Known by many as the “Golden Eagle, Mike approached soccer the same way he did life itself: with patience, kindness, wit, humility, and respect. He was a bridge builder, collaborator, and friend to all. He expected and pulled the best out of people, while always giving his best. He faced every obstacle with dignity.
He will be dearly missed, but his legacy lives on through every life he touched. Rest in Peace, Mike Balson. The Golden Eagle is now soaring above the suffering that this world can bring.
We would like to thank all our friends & family who have been a great comfort during this difficult time. We also thank Share the Care for their tremendous support over the past four years. If you feel led, donations can be made to Share the Care in Mike Balson’s name -- 1524 Formosa Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789.
Share the Care
1524 Formosa Ave, Winter Park, Florida 32789
- A Celebration of Life Saturday, June 22, 2019
- Reception Saturday, June 22, 2019
Michael John Charles Balson
have a memory or condolence to add?ADD A MEMORY
July 5, 2019
The teams spanned a wide age group from 11 to 15 and I remember we managed to have teams drawn from districts. That meant that Billy and I were always on opposing teams, neither of us a member of the “South Street Bottle Washers.” The games lasted all day and I am not sure there was an over limit, as often, even with the long summer evenings the games would last into the evening. I remember that there was a bit of an understanding that when the light faded there was a sort of gentleman’s agreement that you would not bowl at top speed. Not Billy, I remember facing Billy’s bowling nearly in the dark, on a bumpy playing field surface with Billy looming out of the dark bowling top speed bumpers at me. No helmets in those days. Like I said a bit of a rascal.
I also remember golf games with Billy, Wally Harris and David (Charlie) Smith. Anyone ever tried playing serious golf with Billy and Charlie? Somehow, I kept a low profile, but Charlies sniggers and Billy’s antics always got to Wally.
Sadly, with Billy departing for Exeter and me going to Birmingham and then here in Montreal, we lost touch. The last time I think I saw Billy was when by chance we both were in Bridport for a visit. I remember a Barbeque down West Allington and both playing for Chideock old boys. Billy went on to a great soccer career, mine with Chideock was rather more modest. Which brings me to my last story. I often thought of this when I followed Billy’s Soccer career. You see I was a bit of a boy treble and sang all the solos in the Church choir. I remember on one occasion after I had sung a solo, I think in front of the whole school, Billy came up to me and said “how do you do that, I could never perform in front of so many people.” Well Billy you managed it, playing in front of much bigger crowds than me.”
Billy, God bless you and I hope your memories live on in your family and grandchildren.
July 5, 2019
I am sorry that I had not written before, but I only just heard of Michaels passing, though a mutual acquaintance, Robert (Wally) Harris.
My time with Michael (Billy to us all at the time, with apologies to Billy Junior), was from the age of five or there abouts till we lost touch when Billy went to Exeter. Although living at the far ends of the town, Billy in West Allington, me at the lower end of East Street, we got together through our mother’s friendship in the Congregational Church. Billy’s mum Joan was my first Sunday School teacher. I used to spend many hours at the back of the butcher’s shop, in the yard, kicking a football around or playing cricket. Our day to day friendship spanned being at elementary school together.
A couple of stories from that time. I must say that Billy and I were very different children. Billy, for want of a better description was a bit of a rascal, from a large family. I was a pretty quiet “only child.” Still we got on, with Billy a bit of an older brother figure. A couple of memories from that time emphasise the difference.
I remember we both took violin classes around the age of 10 at the General School. We sat at the back and I think we drove poor old Mr. Dietrich, a quiet Polish emigre teacher, nuts. I never progressed on the violin; I suspect neither did Billy. I do remember when Joan had to work in the shop, my mother volunteered to take me and Billy on a school trip. I remember a train journey to Plymouth and my mother struggling with the two of us (needless to say Billy took the lead). When we were older, we became part of a larger group. I do remember those long special summers in Bridport when out of school we would all congregate down at the playing fields for those marathon Cricket games.
***To be continued****
June 23, 2019
My big brother Michael will always be my hero, and will never be forgotten.
June 22, 2019
I will not be there in person but will be there in spirit! He was a true gentleman who welcomed me into the refereeing ranks with warmth and understanding!