Island’s soccer history is forever enshrined

It seemed to Frank Woods and Grant Darley that a part of their lives was flashing before their eyes as the panels celebrating the Vancouver Island Soccer League were unveiled Wednesday along the concourse of Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

They pointed with pride to the 1986 World Cup section and the VISL players who played in it with Canada — George Pakos, Jamie Lowery, Ian Bridge and Ken Garraway.

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Not that Darley and Woods didn’t also have a hand in Island soccer history as two of the greatest players in VISL history.

“We were on the Victoria all-stars team that in 1992 beat touring Dundee United and only lost 2-1 to a Chelsea team with Dennis Wise and Vinnie Jones,” said Woods.

Touring games in the 1950s at Royal Athletic Park featuring the likes of Chelsea, Wolves, Tottenham Hotspurs, Rangers, Hearts, Birmingham FC, Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United are also part of the display panels, including the Victoria all-stars’ historic 1-0 win over Fulham in 1951 to become the first Canadian team to beat a British top side.

The soccer panels will join those previously installed by the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame commemorating the history of local hockey, curling, cycling, rowing, Island Olympians and 1994 Commonwealth Games.

“The soccer panels have been four years in the making. I have come away with a whole new level of respect for archivists,” said VISL executive director Vince Greco.

Memories rushed back for Island soccer figures who gathered Wednesday for their sport’s panel unveiling.

“There were so many Canadian national team players and pros who came out the VISL,” said Woods.

Representing the great Vic West dynasties at the ceremony were Wests legends such as John McGuire.

The beauty of sport was brought home to Darley, one of the VISL’s all-time great goalkeepers, when his wife Jill died in July. Former VISL teammates and opponents rallied behind the Darley family.

“I can’t say how much the support of former players, teammates and opponents, meant to me,” said Darley.

Meanwhile, there was also a nod to the future announced. The silver-clad former North-South Island Challenge trophy, struck in 1905, has been replated by the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame and now becomes the Cup Winners Cup. It will go each September to the winner of a special game between the previous season’s VISL regular-season champion and the Jackson Cup champion.

The inaugural Cup Winners Cup game goes Saturday at 2 p.m. at Hampton Park between defending VISL regular-season champion Cowichan FC and defending Jackson Cup champion Gorge FC.

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