THE well seasoned stars of West Vancouver FC's over-35 men's team showed they still know how to get the job done this weekend, winning the 2011 Western Canadian Masters Soccer Championships in front of appreciative home fans at Ambleside Park.
Both West Van and Alberta's Calgary Callies rolled through Manitoba and Saskatchewan on Friday and Saturday to set up a championship showdown Sunday afternoon.
West Van's Bill Shokar opened the scoring 10 minutes into the final with a header off of a corner kick from Brian Gibson and the home side took it from there, putting up a defensive wall to stymie the Callies. With 20 minutes left in the game West Van defender Darren Nott earned a straight red card for a tackle, leaving the team shorthanded for the final push but the team held on for a 1-0 win to earn the trophy. Gibson was named tournament MVP while goalkeeper Jason Maros made a crucial save with five minutes to go to preserve his championship shutout. Nico Berg also played a key role for the team in midfield alongside captain Steve MacDonald, both former Vancouver 86ers and Whitecaps players.
The team, in fact, boasts at least seven former professional players and everyone else has played at least premier men's level in the Vancouver Metro Soccer League. More than half live on the North Shore while the rest have ties to former clubs and teams on the Shore, many of the players knowing each other since their youth days, said West Van head coach Mike Porteous.
West Van FC formed in 2005 and the club's masters team experienced a lot of success at the local league and cup level but had not won a provincial championship until this year. That win earned them a spot at Western Canadians - there is no cross-Canada national tournament - and the right to host the event.
With the players now in the 35-and-over league, they're World Cup dreams are over but their desire to compete and win is as strong as ever, said Porteous.
"They are over-35s but their hunger-level has never really waned. It was very, very intense on both sides of the pitch," he said. "It was a really hard fought, very physical battle. Quite a few of the old guys are limping around a bit today."
Many of the players were feeling the pain in other parts of their body Monday morning as well after the team's celebration reportedly found them at the Roxy night club in downtown Vancouver.
"I got out early but I'm getting little messages about that, where people have headaches and stuff," Porteous said with a laugh. "Sometimes these guys don't grow up, they're doing the same old tricks they were doing when they were 20 years old."
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Ambleside also played host to the women's 35-andover Western Canadian championships with Alberta's Calgary Spirit and B.C.'s Semiahmoo Supra battling to a 0-0 draw in the final game. The two teams finished tied in the standings but the title went to Calgary whose plus-six goal differential topped Semiahmoo's by one.