Last fall Joshua Ogden decided to start a soccer program for youth in his remote northern British Columbia village of Kyuquot.
And now about a dozen of those young players are gearing up to go to the big leagues.
Of course these athletes, who are attending classes ranging from Kindergarten through Grade 4, will not be playing pro soccer.
Instead they’ve been invited to be guests of the Vancouver Whitecaps, members of North America’s highest calibre soccer circuit, Major League Soccer (MLS), at their May 26 home contest versus the New England Revolution.
After the Whitecaps were contacted to see if they could provide some tickets for the new Kyuquot program, the organization responded with 15 free tickets to the upcoming match.
The Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/ Che:k:tles7et’h First Nation is the northernmost Nuu-chah-nulth nation, based in the village of Kyuquot, which has a population of about 200 people.
Ogden told his players about the invitation to the pro game at their Wednesday practice last week.
“They were excited and cheering about it,” he said.
The Kyuquot program, which includes both girls and boys, features 20 players. They’ve been staging practices since last November. Ogden said he will not be able to take all of those in the program to the Whitecaps’ match. Since the club provided 15 tickets he said he will be able to take 12 of those players to Vancouver. Ogden expects to choose those who had the best attendance at practices for the pro contest. Ogden and a pair of adult chaperones will also make the trek.
Plenty of other details also have to be worked out before the trip. For example, it needs to be determined how to get everybody to Vancouver and back. A one-way trip, which includes a ferry ride, from Kyuquot to Vancouver takes about eight hours. After Ogden and company received word they would be travelling to the game, BC Ferries was contacted to see if they could help out. Officials with the ferry service donated four tickets. Those tickets are expected to be raffled off to help cover some of the travel expenses for the team.
Ogden is also trying to figure out accommodations for those making the trip. Ideally he’s hoping the Kyuquot contingent can spend a couple of nights in Nanaimo, one before the Saturday game and one afterwards before travelling home again. Ogden is contacting schools and churches in Nanaimo to see if they can put the team up. He’s also getting in touch with various restaurants to see if they can provide any meals in order to keep costs of the trip to a minimum.
The Whitecaps have been playing in the MLS since 2011. Ogden has attended some of the team’s games in the past. But he believes this will be the first pro soccer game for all of the Kyuquot youth making the trip.
“It’s an exciting atmosphere,” he said of Whitecaps’ games. “The purpose of it is to get the kids excited about the game. When you’re excited about a sport, it gets you interested in it for the rest of your life.”
Steinar Vage, the director of community services for the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/ Che:k:tles7et’h First Nation, believes it is a huge deal for the youth from his community to be able to go to a Whitecaps’ match.
“You don’t get to experience something like this every day,” he said. “I think it’s really great to be exposed to something like this. We’re one of the most remote nations in the Nuu-chah-nulth family.”
Ogden is planning to continue running the Kyuquot soccer program.
“We’re not sure what to expect from it,” he said. “It’s in the early stages. And travel for us is restricted.”
The team, which is considering calling itself the Kyuquot Wolves, did compete in a day-long tournament in Esperanza, B.C. in late April. But consistently playing against other schools or in a league is not seriously being considered now.
“The closest school to us (in Zeballos) is two hours away,” Ogden said.