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Fans encouraged to wear team colours at Nations Cup
One of the great pleasures for any sports fan is cheering their favourite team onto victory. But wearing the team's colours while doing so makes the experience doubly rewarding.
On the heels of the 2014 World Cup, which will enter the history books as one of the most celebrated ever, the 35th annual Nations Cup kicks off Friday in Richmond with the promise to deliver the same energy and excitement that defined the month-long tournament in Brazil. Jeff Wilson, the longtime chair of Western Canada's premier amateur soccer tournament, encourages fans to support their teams throughout this weekend by wearing the club's jersey or colours.
"One of the neat things during the World Cup was seeing people of all ages wearing their favourite team's kit," says Wilson. "Don't put them back in the drawer for another four years. Continue wearing them at our tournament."
Sitting in his downtown Vancouver office Wednesday, Wilson found himself hoping that all the necessary details from an organizational perspective for the upcoming three-day Nations Cup have been addressed.
"All of us involved in the organizing committee are players at heart ," he says. "We all have a sense of appreciation for the fact the Nations Cup is upon us, but being players also are able to relate to showing up in flip-flops with a kit bag over our shoulder looking for where our teammates are gathering and the sense of excitement and anxiousness to play the games."
One of the reasons for the great interest in this year's World Cup was never knowing for sure which teams were going to win. Tongue in cheek, he says it was almost if the World Cup took a page out of the Nations Cup book.
"One of the things that made the World Cup so compelling was the parity, especially in the group stage, where teams like Chile did very well," says Wilson. "Great parity is something we've always had in the Nations Cup. Of course there are always perennial favorites, but we've also seen many teams go from obscurity, barely qualifying, go through to the semifinals the following year."
Akin to a mini World Cup, the Nations Cup is three days of "football" featuring men's and women's teams—at various age groups—playing for national pride and bragging rights. At the elite level, the calibre has matched the level of play with such international players as Eric Ross (Newcastle United), Jim Gabriel (Everton), Alex Reid (Glasgow Rangers) and Carl Velentine (Vancouver Whitecaps and West Bromwich Albion) suiting up along with Canadian pros Dale Mitchell, Colin Miller, Stephen Burns, Jason Levitt, Sammy Saundh and Pat Onstad among others.
The unique concept of grouping players based on their ethnic backgrounds or countries or origin creates an excitement that has made the Nations Cup a summer ritual among the soccer community. Attracting more than 1,000 players, the event annually averages more than 5,000 spectators over the weekend.
•Play at the 2014 Nations Cup kick off Friday at 6:30 p.m. At Hugh Boyd Park, India meets Serbia while England faces Scotland in the over-38 men's division, while Saudi Arabia plays Ireland and Portugal meets Germany in open men's division action. At Manoah Steves Elementary, there's more over-38 men's division play as Germany faces Fiji and Italy challenges Africa. And at Richmond High, Canada and the Caribbean meet up for an over-30 men's match, while at nearby Minoru Park it's Crotia versus China, also in over-30 men's play.
Games are also slated to begin at 7:45 p.m. and 9 p.m. on the same sites.
Tournament play resumes Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. with the first action in the women's division at Hugh Boyd Park. It's Ireland versus India, Caribbean versus First Nations, Canada versus U.S. and Italy versus Germany.
Play in the over-52 men's division also commences at Steves with Scotland against Serbia and China versus Ireland.
Additional games kick off at 10:45 a.m., noon, 1:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:45 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6:15 p.m., before resuming Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Playoffs begin at noon Sunday, with the women's and men's over-45 finals at 3 p.m. at Boyd. The men's over-30 and over-38 and over-52 finals are at 4:30 p.m. at Boyd, with the open final at 6 p.m., also at Boyd.