Parksville was represented when the inaugural Federation of International Walking Football Associations (FIWFA) Walking Football World Nations Cup was held last month in England. The event was staged at St George’s Park, the FA’s national training centre in Staffordshire.
Rob Jonas, who started walking soccer on Vancouver Island, was a member of Team Canada, which placed fourth overall in the over-60 age group. They lost to Italy 5-2 in the bronze-medal game.
The 70-year-old senior athlete, who formed Vanisle Walking Soccer group in Parksville and assisted in the formation of similar clubs on the Island and Vancouver, said it was an experience of a lifetime.
Team Canada went 3-2 record in round robin play to finish third in their pool. They were successful against South Korea 6-0, Japan 3-2, and Basque Country 3-0. They suffered losses to France 3-0 and to the eventual champions, England 10-0. They advanced to the quarterfinals where they edged Northern Ireland 1-0 to set up another clash with the competition’s top team, England, in the semi-finals.
Team Canada played a much better game in their second encounter against England, losing 8-2.
“Before the match,” Jonas said, “The squad spontaneously broke out into “O Canada” and the English crowd stood and applauded us. I welled up with emotion. It was a magical moment.”
Jonas pointed out Canada broke England’s consecutive shutout wins in the tournament.
“We were very sure we were going to be severely tested to get past England,” said Jonas. “But the only two goals England gave up in the whole tournament were to Canada. And I was fortunate enough to score one of them.”
England went on to win the gold medals in both the over-50 and over-60 age groups.
Finishing in the top five, said Jonas, was a surprise result for Canada. With no Canadian governing body for walking soccer, Team Canada was only assembled after clubs were contacted to see if any players would be interested in competing at the inaugural World Nations Cup, which hosted 28 countries. Jonas said it was a chance of a lifetime, so he grabbed the opportunity.
“Our group met the day before the tournament and had only one full practice together,” said Jonas. “We didn’t all even know each other’s names. In my opinion, we were one of the big stories of the tournament because most of the teams were set teams. England has been playing for 13 years, for example, and each country was allowed to field up to three former professionals in their squads. So, as a complete group of strangers up against those challenges, finishing 4th ranked in the World was an amazing result for Canadian Walking Soccer.”
Team Canada goalkeeper George Lubberts of Lethbridge, Alta. was named top goalie in the over-6o division.
“Without our goalkeeper we would not have done so well,” said Jonas. “He did a tremendous job.”
By virtue of their placings at the World Nations Cup, Canada now ranks fourth in the world in walking soccer in the over-60 age group.
Jonas, the past president of the Parksville Golden Oldies Sports Association (PGOSA), is now organizing the fall and winter walking soccer programs.
Play is set to move back indoors at Arbutus Meadows Arena in Nanoose Bay. They play from September to March on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Anyone wishing to join are required to be members of PGOSA. To get a membership form or to fill up a form and also learn more about walking soccer and other PGOSA sports program, go online at the PGOSA website at https://pgosa.org/index.php.
Or for Walking Soccer details, Rules, videos and slideshows go to www.vanislewalkingsoccer.org
You can also contact Rob Jonas -Program Organizer at email@example.com