More than 50 teams of soccer players from First Nations all over the West Coast converged on Campbell River over the Canada Day weekend to take part in the 46th annual Golden Wings Soccer Tournament.
With that many teams playing that many games, the three-day event took over fields at Carihi, L’École Phoenix and Quinsam Reserve, running from Saturday morning through Monday afternoon.
Andy Puglas Sr. has been organizing the tournament for “well over 25 years,” and says this year was actually one of the tamer tournaments in terms of organizing. While 51 teams of soccer players – somewhere around 1,500 in total – might sound like a nightmare to keep orderly, Puglas says he’s got it pretty much nailed down to a science by now.
“We usually have somewhere around 70 and 75 teams,” he says. “It takes a lot of organizing and a lot of prep work, but this was pretty much one of the smallest ones for quite a while. It’s easy work for me by now, but now that I’m getting older it takes a little longer,” he says with a laugh.
There’s another upside to having fewer teams than usual, too.
Last year, they also made use of fields at Pinecrest School and Pinecrest Park, as well as the Robron Turf Field.
“We were so spread out all over the place with so many teams and I think people appreciated that they could all stay close most of the time and didn’t have to run around so much this year.”
When all was said and done, the local teams more than held their own during the tournament, Puglas says.
“Especially the WWK youth teams,” he says. “They’re originated out of the Cape Mudge Band and they have a really good soccer program there. They have over 70 youths in that group and they’re very well organized. If they didn’t win, they came in second, pretty much, in all the age groups.”
Overall, the tournament was another great time for all the visiting teams, Puglas says.
“It went very well. Everything went pretty much the way it was supposed to go and we enjoyed having everyone showing up and having fun,” Puglas says, adding that it takes a lot of volunteer work and the support of dedicated sponsors to make it all come together.
“I’d like to thank Interfor, the Campbell River Indian Band, McKays audio and Cermaq, because without their help providing game balls and helping pay the rental of the fields, that kind of thing, this couldn’t happen, as well as the City of Campbell River for allowing us to take over these fields for the weekend and the Cape Mudge Band for their field, too. They’re about to do a huge amount of work out there on those fields, and I look forward to seeing how that all turns out.”
Puglas also says special thanks need to go out to the cleanup crew – Gordie Puglas, Glen Assu, Irvin Speck, Andrew Puglas Sr. and Ernie Puglas – for putting the fields and sidelines back into a condition they would want to leave for the next batch of players who come along to play.
So after decades of organizing this massive gathering and getting up there in years himself, is Puglas getting ready to hand over the reigns of the tournament to someone else?
“I’m going to hang on for a few more years, I think, and see what happens,” he says. “I love the job and being involved in it all.
“It’s a lot of fun.”