Vancouver Island’s brand new professional soccer team Pacific FC opened their 2019 pre-season with a four-day training session in Tofino. The team played soccer at Mackenzie Beach and Wickaninnish Community School. (Pacific FC Photo)

Vancouver Island’s soccer team takes shape in Tofino

New Canadian Premier League Pacific Football Club wants to be a team for people from Sooke to Tofino

With the sun on their backs and sand in their toes, Vancouver Island’s newly minted professional soccer team Pacific FC opened 2019 pre-season with a special four-day training camp in Tofino.

From March 7 to 10, the Canadian Premier League (CPL) club played beach soccer on Mackenzie, went for beach runs, and laced up at the Wickaninnish Community School field to kick the ball around with the local kids.

Coming together as a team on – and off – the field was the goal.

“The energy in Tofino is magical so we thought it’d be a great place to start the pre-season,” said Pacific FC co-owner Rob Friend, adding that the players were not allowed to try surfing due to liability issues.

Visiting different communities about Vancouver Island will be weaved into Pacific FC’s busy 28-game regular season that kicks off with a home opener on April 28 against the HFX Wanderers FC of Halifax and ends in mid-October.

READ: Pacific FC to face off against HFX Wanderers FC at inaugural match (Feb. 22, 2019)

“This is a team for the Island,” touts Friend. “Whether that’s here in Tofino or Nanaimo, Comox, wherever, we want to represent this Island, not the city, that’s why we are here in Tofino. Most of our players are from B.C. They respect this region and the West Coast region and they want to represent it. It’s important that we really dive into the communities around this Island to make this Island proud and have something to support from a professional sports level.”

Friend, a former professional international soccer player and member of the National team, said it took about three to four years for the Canadian Premier League to take flight.

“I never had the opportunity to play professionally in Canada. I had to leave. So we wanted to create an opportunity for Canadians. We are really the last developed nation to have a professional soccer league. Finally we have started one,” Friend told the Westerly News.

Comox goalkeeper Nolan Wirth, above, will wear jersey number one for the Island.

“All I can ask for is for the Island to recognize how important and how big this is for the Island and for Canada. We needed a professional league for years and now we are finally getting one. It will only help develop the soccer culture in Canada,” said Wirth.

READ: Comox-raised Nolan Wirth joins Pacific FC (Feb. 26, 2019)

The Tofino training camp was led by Pacific FC’s head coach Michael Silberbauer, the club’s director of sports science Randy Celebrini, and assistant coach James Merriman.

Merriman, who grew up in the small community of Cedar near Nanaimo, thinks Pacific FC can make a real positive impact on youth throughout the Island.

“That’s very important to us. That’s one of the reasons we’re up here [in Tofino]. We’re going to continue to get into all the communities throughout the Island. That’s one thing we’re going to make sure we do. The players are going to have a positive impact in different ways,” said Merriman.

Seven teams will compete in the CPL’s inaugural season. Pacific FC will share an expanded Westhills Stadium in Langford with Rugby Canada and the Westshore Rebels junior football team.

“A couple of the ownership teams are actually CFL clubs, you got the Hamilton Tiger Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, they actually own a soccer team now. They will be playing out of their stadiums,” Friend said, adding that all the CPL games will be contested outdoors.

Soccer is a beautiful sport, notes Friend.

“It’s the most popular sport in the world. Canada doesn’t have a soccer culture like the rest of the world, but we’re excited to change that. Anyone can play it. All you need is a ball. There’s a reason it’s the most popular sport in the world and we’re excited to bring it here on the Island,” said Friend.

The CPL rulebook was written to give Canadian players more opportunities. For example, each team roster of 22 has a limit of seven foreign nationals. The League also announced it will be hosting a series of open tryouts in cities across Canada for players over 16.

“Hey, maybe one day there will be a kid from Tofino playing [professional] soccer,” Friend said.

READ MORE: Christine Sinclair named Canadian Women’s player of the year again (Dec. 11, 2018)

READ MORE: Teenager Alphonso Davies wins Canadian Men’s Soccer Player for the Year Award (Dec. 12, 2018)



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Municipal watchdog call Victoria councillors’ request for salary increase ‘boneheaded’

Grumpy Taxpayer$ wish to see reductions in councillor wages to meet local average

Showers ahead for Tuesday morning

Plus a look ahead at the week

Cirque du Soleil brings dazzling ice show Axel to Victoria this spring

Axel includes acrobatics, ice skating, live music and more

Victoria woman reunited with lost family photos dating back to 1970s

‘You can watch their family grow up in these photos,’ says woman who found the box of forgotten photos

New, feature-length documentary on missing woman Emma Fillipoff comes out next year

The film follows Fillipoff’s disappearance and the ongoing investigation

VIDEO: The sticky truth about winter moths and how Greater Victoria arborists fight them

Winter moths have ‘killed a lot of trees’ across the region, says Oak Bay arborist

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

EDITORIAL: It’s time to face the truth on drug use

The homeless don’t own the drug epidemic

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Most Read