Pacific FC heralds return to Starlight Stadium with victory over Cavalry FC

PACIFIC FC 2

CAVALRY FC OF CALGARY 0

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Veteran announcer Cliff LeQuesne said over the Starlight Stadium public-address system on Friday night before the game: “We’ve waited a long, long time to say this, but welcome back to Canadian Premier League action.”

Since the final home game on Oct. 19, 2019, of the last normal season, to be exact

Pacific FC defeated Cavalry FC of Calgary 2-0 in the first pro sports game in B.C. with fans since March of 2020, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps, B.C. Lions, Vancouver Canadians and Vancouver Canucks to the punch in that regard. (The Tokyo Olympic basketball qualifying tournament this summer at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre was bubbled and limited to 10 per cent of capacity).

The 2,661 fans on hand at Starlight Stadium, almost all maskless, were seen as the first test of B.C. sports fans’ willingness to be with others in a crowd.

The spectators created quite a noisy ruckus, and a festive atmosphere, despite that PFC CEO and GM Rob Friend admitted there was some hesitancy among other fans who may have normally shown up.

PFC star player Marco Bustos gave the assembled something to cheer about early with a goal at three minutes. It was book-ended by Dutch-import Gianni dos Santos’ powerfully-taken goal from down the right side at 85 minutes.

“The fans have shown a lot of patience throughout this and it was a real treat to be out there tonight,” said Bustos, who has been capped six times for Canada.

PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah, who celebrated his 41st birthday Friday, said: “The lads were fantastic and came out with energy. Overall, I thought we controlled the game.”

He got no argument from Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr., who has built his club into a CPL power.

“The best team won and we have to take our licks,” Wheeldon said.

“We’ve already forgotten about it and moved on. You have to have short memories in this league.”

But the night was more than just the scoreline.

“It was a great atmosphere,” said Wheeldon.

“It was a great event and it was nice to have the fans here. PFC put on a great show. We’ve all suffered through this and now it’s time to put smiles back on people’s faces again. I just wish we could have been the party poopers.”

Both PFC and Cavalry FC went 4-2-2 in their eight games in the Winnipeg bubble, which kick-started the 2021 CPL season.

PFC’s win gave it sole possession of second place, ahead of Cavalry FC, and behind leading Valour FC of Winnipeg.

CORNER KICKS: Veteran PFC attacker Victor Blasco returned to the line-up after missing the Winnipeg bubble portion due to the death of his father in Spain … SMUS-grad and 38-time Canada-capped Martin Nash of Victoria is technical director and lead assistant coach of Cavalry FC … In a sign that times are not totally normal yet, Island Health had their vaccination van on hand at Starlight Stadium for the game … Marco Bustos of PFC was featured in national TV ads for Volkswagen that ran during the Euro championship this summer. “It was cool. I didn’t expect they would play it that much,” he said. “I heard from a lot of people across the country. Hopefully, that gave the CPL a lot of exposure.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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