After a strong 60 years, the Gorge Soccer Association is ready to celebrate as it remains one of the biggest clubs in town.
On Tuesday, longtime club volunteer Kathy Brodsgaard opened the clubhouse display case for youth players Ashlyn and Trevor Smith. The youth players couldn’t help but smile while trying to comprehend the reality of wearing a soccer boot that weighed more than a lunchbox, or kicking a heavy ball that was stitched at the centre in the same style as an American football.
The two also enjoyed a closer peek at some of Gorge’s towering trophies, the senior men’s provincial cups from 2001 and 2002, and the classics women’s provincial trophy from 2002.
“Those were mighty teams, there wasn’t many who could take them on,” Brodsgaard recalls. “[But] Gorge was always a group that embraced the history of the club, a super friendly place.”
The club was a super-friendly place in part because of Ron McClure, the former club president for whom the clubhouse is named after. Unfortunately McClure passed away just shy of a year ago, as he would be a welcome face at Gorge’s upcoming celebrations.
“He was always present and positive, and made you feel like you wanted to help out,” Brodsgaard said.
Brodsgaard is part of the organizing committee for Gorge’s 60th anniversary celebrations, a social evening on Friday, Sept. 23, with beverages and finger foods, and a series of matches on Saturday, Sept 24. There will be smaller, co-ed soccer matches, a featured full-pitch match of “old-timers,” and a pair of Vancouver Island Soccer League matches with Gorge Div. 3 and Div. 1 teams, all at Hampton Park.
The 60th anniversary is more than just a number, as it also marks a significant emergence for the club. This month Gorge can call itself debt free, said club director Andrew Wynn-Williams. Gorge was left up to $368,000 in arrears following the tragic 2014 death of a former club president who had an alleged gambling addiction.
“It’s a time to recognize that we had a tough period a couple of years ago, we went into debt, and we are out of debt this month,” said Wynn-Williams, Gorge’s vice-president of youth and the club field co-ordinator.
One of the silver linings of 2014 is the good that came out of it for the club, Wynn-Williams said.
In that time, Gorge never asked for any debt to be cancelled, only to have payments restructured, and while it has had to start a new fund to replace Hampton Park’s artificial turf on Ackinclose Field, it has managed to install some upgrades this year.
The club restored fencing, purchased a half dozen new nets, and installed a concrete platform along the east side of the field, making it easy to move the large nets on and off the pitch.
Today, there are nearly 1,300 members of the club, adults and youth, Wynn-Williams said.
Those who’ve spent time in the local soccer community know the club has always been competitive on the field. But it’s that balance of being a welcoming environment that keeps people with the club, said Brad Smith, father of Ashlyn and Trevor.
“I’ve been with the club for about 10 years now. I don’t play anymore but I grew up playing for Juan de Fuca, and Gorge was always the toughest or one of the toughest to play against,” Smith said.
It was the same for Brodsgaard, who came to the Gorge club in 1981 with her son, Shel, and husband Kjeld. Brodsgaard has been part of the club, off and on, ever since, and handed different roles along the way.
“It used to be everyone here for the Div. 1 men’s game, 2:15 p.m. on Saturdays, and then down to the Gorge Point Pub for a pint,” Brodsgaard recalls. “There aren’t many going to the pub anymore, but we do have beer in the clubhouse.”
Brodsgaard’s son, Shel, is one of Gorge’s best known graduates, a goalkeeper who represented at the national level for six years. Today, 19-year-old Dario Zanatta, a second-generation Gorge player, is doing just that. This summer Zanatta played for Canada’s U20 side and he’s already made 13 appearances for Hearts of Midlothian in the Scottish Premiership.
Zanatta is unavailable for the club’s coming reunion, where he will certainly be mentioned by some of the founding members.
“The old-timers game will have some people out that haven’t worn soccer boots in a long time,” Brodsgaard smiled.
Chummy Crabbe is among the original generation of members who wore Gorge’s vertical striped black-and-white Magpie kit. He’ll be at the reunion, along with Rob Whiskers, Larry De Costa and others.
Gorge’s 60th anniversary starts with a social evening at the Esquimalt Legion, 622 Admirals Rd. on Sept. 23. Doors open at 6, followed by a formal program at 7 p.m. Dress is semi-formal and tickets are $25. Must by 19 years or older.
On Sept., 24, Hampton will host “Fun, Co-ed Small-Sided Soccer Games.” Arrive at 11:30 a.m. Kick-off is at noon, followed by the Old-Timers Game (1:45 p.m. arrival) and featured VISL games at 4 and 6 p.m.
For tickets or more information visit gorgesoccerassociation.com.