We went on a magnificent run. We came up just short of winning the Western Canada Championship losing in the final to a powerful Alberta side. We were the better team but didn’t perform to our potential. However, the journey that put us in a position to compete for the Championship was something special.
Over the past six months, my football club, Portugese Club of Vancouver (PCOV), went on an unparalleled run of success. For years, we’ve known about the capability we held within the squad but we could never pull it together at the right time. Always the ‘almost’ team. A bunch of nice lads that can play lovely football but never had the killer instinct to win trophies. Not this time.
From January 26, 2019 through the Cup Final in May, we didn’t lose a game. We beat two of the top three teams in the league on our romp to the Imperial Cup Championship. Playing at the picturesque setting of Empire Stadium on a sunny April afternoon, we beat our daunted rivals West Van, 1-0, to lift the league trophy. While not at our best, we showed grit in determination fitting of Champions. It was only the beginning.
With confidence high, we went into the Provincial Cup tournament feeling that we had a fantastic opportunity to do the double. We started by going 2-0 down to Port Moody within 30 minutes in the first round. Due to the run we’d been on and the confidence we had intertwined within us, nobody showed fear or anxiety at the situation. It was just another obstacle we had to overcome. We didn’t change the possession style of football that we enjoy which in turn led to a frustrated and rash challenge by a Port Moody player leading to a red card. We knew we had the game in the bag from that moment on, despite being 2-0 down. We walked away with a relatively comfortable 3-2 win while putting on a masterclass in composure and maturity.
Into the semi-final we went where we had to travel to Cowichan city to play an island opposition. A team we’d never faced but we understood them to be soft on the footballing side, strong on the physical side but their true advantage lay in numbers. They were expected to have 300-500 supporters at the match. Think about it – a bunch of over-35 players, some well into their 40’s, going to the island to play in front of circa 500 people? I’ll ave some of that!
As we boarded the ever-so rickety Lynch bus lines to the ferry terminal a feeling of nostalgia took over me. I sat on the bus with a band of brothers going to fight tooth and nail to get into the Provincial Cup final. We were determined and I think I speak for us all that nothing was going to get in our way on this run. We arrived at the field after a rather long, laborious ferry and bus ride and began stretching the legs out. The mood was loose in the changing room and during warm up - there was a giddiness to us that bordered on arrogant but remained assured. As the game progressed, swathes of Cowichan supporters began to show up and the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic for an over-35’s cup semi-final. Rather than wilt under pressure that most of us probably hadn’t felt since our mid-20’s, we relished the vibe and came away 2-1 winners after extra time.
In true master’s football culture, we boarded the bus after a couple pints in the changing room and hit the liquor store. Rather than re-fuel with water and Gatorade we indulged in pepperoni sticks, chips and copious amounts of beer. I was wobbly by the time we boarded the ferry but heck, that’s what we play for. Knowing that these moments don’t come along that often, we enjoyed every minute of the ride home but also knew we had a CUP FINAL the following weekend.
Ironically, the final was back on the island in Nanaimo. The gaffer had impeccable organization with buses and ferry trips planned to give the lads the greatest chance of success. You may think that this is par the course for football teams but not at our age. To be able to focus solely on football instead of car-pooling, directions and timing was what gave us one of the many advantages we had over our opposition, once again West Van whom we swatted aside in the Imperial Cup final.
We arrived at the park well in advance of kick-off and took one of the longest walks to a dressing room that I’d ever had. Nonetheless, the mood was once again pretty loose considering we were in a Cup Final. Not as loose as the semi-final but not uptight either. We felt good, unstoppable if you will.
The match kicked off with West Van putting us under the cosh. We defended resolutely for 30 minutes or so but the deadlock was broken with a long ball over the top. A magnificent backheel from the striker to the trailing midfielder allowed him time to rifle a shot near post. Down 1-0, again. Were we bothered, hell no. We’d been here before many times and in true PCOV fashion we remained composed.
Half-time and down 1-0. The situation allowed the gaffer to reiterate the confidence he had in us which injected further fuel to our already high self-belief. We absolutely lambasted West Van in the second half. Their legs faded while we felt ever-young and romped to a dominant 4-1 victory to lift another trophy, this time the Provincial Cup. Let the celebration ensue. Champagne flowed, beers crushed and the new team special, straight Cazadores was devoured. Food was an afterthought.
We were Provincial Champions and felt invincible. Irrelevant of our age and the other priorities in life we all now have, winning trophies with your brothers is something special. The journey creates moments you never forget and the bond built with your teammates is eternal.
I’ll never forget the magnificent Provincial and League Cup double we pulled of in 2019 and it isn’t just because we lifted trophies, it’s because there’s nobody I would have rather done it with.