The 2018–19 Whitehorse Rapids over-35 soccer season kicks off at the end of September, bringing together a collection of expats and non-hockey-playing Canadians in one homogenous mix.
When I first arrived in the Yukon, from England, there weren’t many things I recognized from home—gone were cricket and rugby, replaced by baseball and hockey. The CBC replaced the BBC. Rain was replaced by short freezing-cold days. However, the “beautiful game” survived, taken up by a band of brothers recruited from the four corners of the globe.
Components that make the Rapids special
Age seems to have no meaning; if you are willing and able, there is a place for you. The league youngsters are just 35 when the league starts. They gambol around the pitch without a care in the world, while the older players all wonder if this game is their last … but this is the essence of the league: one superstar cannot rule a game; a successful team plays well together and includes all members of the squad. The age gap between the youngest and oldest player is around 30 years (some players play like their age, while some you wouldn’t believe their age even if you read their birth certificates).
Experienced and ready to play
When chatting to some of the players and asking what soccer they had before arriving here, there is a sprinkling of university players. Some played as a kid then played other sports before deciding that soccer was their one true love; others said I just thought it might be fun. There is also the mystery for some of the players—where legend and myth become reality, “I heard so and so played professional in Germany, or someone told me that fella was part of the Manchester United youth team with Beckham.” The truth is never really known, although embellishment of my skills has always been taken with a huge grain of salt.
Players from around the world
There is a merging of different styles and ideals. The Europeans like the game played with a certain element of physicality, while the fleet-footed Latin Americans enjoy stroking the ball around scoring wonderful goals. Throw in a few Australians, a soupcon of Africans and a dash of Asians, and you have a recipe for success.The Rapids has evolved over the years, from its roots in late-night games, in cold school gyms, to its current home at the Canada Games Centre, with games played on Saturday mornings. The Rapids has also been responsible for a very successful travelling team, and they host a huge invitational co-ed tournament in the spring.
The league today …
There are currently five teams in the league, with up to 12 players on a roster, but there is always room for more players as the league looks to increase the number of teams. Games are around 50 minutes each (split into two halves), played on indoor turf. The season begins as the last hint of summer disappear—it drives on through the cold winter months, taking a break for Christmas, before winding up to its playoff crescendo in February.
Fun, fair and competitive is the motto for the league, but come the playoffs, everyone is very serious about lifting the trophy: every sinew is strained, reserve expanses of energy are galvanized, mistakes are scrutinized and goals are fondly remembered in the stands after the game.
Whitehorse, like Canada, is a very diverse place, and I would advise all newcomers to the town, looking for some small part of home, to come to the Canada Games Centre and watch the Rapids play. You may realize that it is a very small piece of home, but nonetheless anyone interested in being part of the team is more than welcome to join the fun and to play for as long as the body holds up.