Full Time: A Soccer Story

(McClelland & Stewart / Douglas Gibson Books 2008)

Full Time book cover“You don’t stop playing football because you get old, you get old because you stop playing football.” — Sir Stanley Matthews

Full-Time is a would-be Cinderella story about a team of over-50s players from Vancouver who travel to Spain to play against much younger ex-professionals from the Spanish First Division.

While investigating the beautiful game from the perspectives of midfielder, manager and referee, the author [pictured on the cover] provides a revealing and often amusing insider’s view of what it’s like to represent a “soccer poor” nation always ranked near the bottom of FIFA’s ratings.

Full-Time not only documents a year-in-the-life of an underdog team with two fullbacks who have just recovered from chemotherapy. Full-Time takes a critical look at the tribalism of sports; it re-examines the 2006 World Cup; it looks at the history of soccer in Canada (How many Canadians know that a team from Galt, Ontario won the second Olympic gold medal for soccer in 1904?); and it records secret dialogues between an over-the-hill soccer player and ‘Nettie Honeyball’—a soccer ball.

This book will appeal to all Canadians, young or old, male or female, who love soccer 365 days per year—and who no longer want instructions on how to take a throw-in. There are almost 900,000 registered soccer players in Canada—more Canadians play soccer than hockey—and yet Full-Time is the first literary book about the game from a Canadian perspective.

Team Photo Van United
Vancouver United after their first win in Turin, en route to a world title.

Canada unlikely champs in Italy

Turin, Italy – Special to The Province (2013)

A team sponsored by Vancouver’s BC BookWorld newspaper has won the world soccer championship for their Over-50s age category at the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy, winning seven games in seven days.

Inaugurated in 1985, the World Masters Games are convened every four years as a counterpoint to the Olympics, for athletes 35 and older. It has the world’s largest multi-sport event in terms of participants. The Sydney World Masters Games attracted 28,676 competitors in 2009, more than double the number of athletes that competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

alan Twigg

photo by Dan Toulgoet

With a bare bones roster, Vancouver United smoked international opposition with an overall plus/minus goal differential of 18-1. More bizarrely, they allowed just two shots on goal.

Injuries depleted VanU to eleven men for the finale, but they prevailed with relative ease, 2-0, exhibiting superior teamwork, fitness and sportsmanship throughout the Games, held August 2-11.

Vancouver United won its qualifying contests 2-1, 3-0, 2-0, 2-0; followed by a 5-0 quarter-final win and a 2-0 semi-final win. A brain surgeon by trade, Chris Honey won the golden boot with five goals; three other players scored three times each.

“The enormity of what we have accomplished is beginning to set in,” said Honey. “I have not felt such a strong bond with a team so quickly before. Especially in the final half of the Gold Medal match, I felt part of something important, something perfect, something worth remembering.”

The team assembled by Donal Morgan was chiefly comprised of players from a team called Kitsilano Pirates, including BCBW publisher Alan Twigg. If soccer prowess could have been measured by an odometer, Vancouver United was in a class of its own. Phil Hay, a marathoner, easily outran all competitors.

“We won it the right way,” said Hay. “I really appreciated the selfless attitude that permeated the team. Everyone bought into it and allowed us to overcome the obstacles we faced. We all worked hard for each other and proved without a doubt we had the best team in our tournament.”

Since a Canadian squad from from Galt, Ontario, won the Olympic gold medal in soccer in 1904 at the second Olympic Games, in St. Louis, competing against only two other teams, both from St. Louis, Canada’s male soccer players have been mostly ranked in the bottom third of FIFA’s world rankings. The one time Canada’s national men’s side qualified for the World Cup, it failed to score.

The next World Masters Games will be held in Auckland, New Zealand in 2017, coordinated by the International Masters Games Association in Lausanne, Switzerland.