VISL awards soccer cups in a Saturday full of finals

The venerable Jackson Cup has been contested since 1915. World Cup players George Pakos, Jamie Lowery, Ian Bridge and other multi-capped Canadian national team performers such as Brian Robinson, Bob Bolitho and Ike MacKay have all quested to hoist it in Vancouver Island Soccer League play.

But none of those past players over 105 years have ever been involved in a tournament like the one in 2020, which concluded with the championship final Saturday, after a six-month break.

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It is unlikely any players, past or present, could have anticipated a Jackson Cup final played in September. And after the VISL spent $15,000 on facemasks for its 2,000 registered players, $2,000 on touchless digital thermometers and $500 each for two touchless boot sanitizers.

Nanaimo United, which hadn’t won the Jackson Cup since 1999 when it captured the VISL grail in 2017, has now won two in four years with a 2-1 victory at Westhills Stadium to deny Lakehill its first-ever Cup. Nanaimo United centre-back Mike Greenaway was named championship game MVP. Lakehill, which lost 3-2 in the 2018 final to Gorge FC, has come close in two of the past three years.

The Jackson Cup capped a day of championship finals for the VISL with Prospect Lake beating Mid-Island 2-1 on penalty kicks for the George Smith U-21 Cup and UVic Alumni edging the Cowichan 49ers by a 2-1 count for the Tony Grover Masters Cup.

No fans were allowed into Westhills but that hardly mattered. The only thing that did was that the finals took place at all. The pandemic may have bloodied the VISL but it did not make it bow. The Cups were presented and the season will not go into the books without champions written in for 2020.

“It’s satisfying because it brings some normalcy back,” said VISL executive director Vince Greco.

“It’s mentally good for everybody that we were able to finish the 2019-20 season. Some of the players may not have been in prime condition, after six months off, but all that matters is that they were on the field playing for championships to close out the season. Doing this has a lot of value for these players. It’s nice to crown a champion, just like the NHL is about to do with the Stanley Cup.”

The 2020-21 VISL season will begin Oct. 2. The provincial Phase 3 of the return to sports allows for team-versus-team play on a reginal basis in cohorts of up to four teams. Each of the VISL divisions in the new season will feature four-team pods playing each other. That will be followed by two-week quarantine breaks before the teams rotate into new four-team cohorts.

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