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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Since 1974

Anybody who's been following this blog (and I Could Eat before it) will know I am a big supporter of soccer, and in particular the Vancouver Whitecaps. The love affair started back in 1974 when the 'Caps started play in the North American Soccer league.  I was a young soccer player myself and watching my home team gave me many years of inspiration and entertainment.  I was there for game one against the San Jose Earthquake (a 2-1 loss), but right from the beginning I was entranced by the beautiful game.

In the years that followed, my friends and I would save our allowances so we could go see games at Empire Stadium (pictured here).  When we didn't have enough for tickets, we'd sneak into the stadium; the north-east corner was secluded enough to allow a 12 year-old to jump the fence and avoid the (old & overweight) security guards.  

In 1979 the Whitecaps defeated the might New York Cosmos on their way to winning the Soccer Bowl.  Soccer was huge in Vancouver, even bigger than hockey.  While our schoolmates were cheering for hockey players like  Lafleur, Orr and Esposito, our heroes were Bob Lenarduzzi, Carl Valentine and Kevin Hector.  

Sadly, in 1984 the NASL folded, and our beloved Caps were gone.  Professional soccer returned to Vancouver a few years later with the Canadian Soccer League and the Vancouver Eight-Sixers, but it wasn't the same.  They simply weren't the same team I had loved.

Photo Credit:  Bob Frid
But something happened to me a few years ago to change those feelings.  FIFA 2007 from EA Sports.  Yes, a video game re-kindled my love for soccer.  It reminded me that it was the game, the beautiful flowing play of soccer,that attracted me in the first place.  And so in 2008 I went to my first professional soccer game in over 20 years.  It wasn't the same level of play (Division 2) and these Whitecaps (they'd re-claimed the name by then) weren't the same as my Whitecaps.  But in the stands of Swanguard Stadium a new love affair was born.

2011 Whitecaps FC
Then, in 2009, Vancouver Whitecaps FC was granted a new franchise in Major League Soccer, the top level of soccer in Canada and the USA.  The Caps were back, and I've been hyper with anticipation ever since.  Today at 3:30pm PDT they'll be taking the pitch against Toronto FC.  We're back at square one.  But we're back.

Mon the Caps!


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