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The Legacy of the Campbell River Ravens

The team contributed to a tight-knit South Asian community in Campbell River going back to the 1960s
Former Campbell River Ravens gathered in 2017 for a reunion and competed in a tournament in Surrey. Photo contributed

Gary Thandi was born and raised in Campbell River and has lived in the Lower Mainland for the past 20 years. Besides obtaining his Bachelors and Masters in Social Work and running a non-profit counselling agency, he also does some freelance writing on occasion and recently wrote an article on Campbell River’s Ravens Soccer Club for the South Asian Studies Institute based at the University of the Fraser Valley, as part of their project showcasing various South Asian communities across B.C. A shortened version of that article is below.

Gary Thandi

Special to Campbell River Mirror

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood, growing up in Campbell River, involves hopping in the family’s Mazda 808 Sedan with my elder brother and heading down with our dad to one of his weekend soccer matches.

It was the early-to-mid 1980s and every weekend we would head down to one of Nunns Creek, Lane Field or Willow Point Park to watch the Ravens Soccer Club take on one of their crosstown foes like The Strikers or the Golden Wings.

These and other local teams all vied for soccer supremacy in the city year after year. The OB Allan Cup may not mean anything to most, but for anyone who played men’s soccer in Campbell River back in the day, it was the ultimate prize – awarded to the best team after a hard-fought regular season and playoffs.

The Ravens were named after the lumber mill where many of the men worked. Many South Asian men moved to Campbell River from India to work at Raven Lumber in the 1960s and 1970s, with later migration waves arriving in the 80s and into the 90s. The mill changed names, from Raven Lumber to Campbell River Mills in the late 1980s, but the Ravens moniker remained for the club. The team was started in 1971 by Jogi Bains, Mo Sangha and my dad. All three worked at the mill together, and soon recruited others from the mill to join them. If the men were too old – no problem – their sons were up to the task.

In my opinion, that sport – and that team – was one of the factors that contributed to a tight-knit South Asian community in Campbell River. Of course, it was for the most part men gathering to play or watch, but even those who weren’t involved invariably were related to someone who was part of the Ravens Soccer Club. The sons and daughters of these men had at the very least that in common.

Many hours per week were spent playing soccer in Campbell River during my teen years in the late 80s and early 90s. While the city did produce a few high-level talents, most of us just saw it as an opportunity to spend time with friends and uncles while getting in some exercise. We saw each other multiple times during the week – for practice and games – and we developed a sense of camaraderie – 12- and 50-year-old men, and ages in-between, with little to nothing else in common beyond a desire to kick a ball around together.

While an annual summertime sports day still continues, the team has long since folded – as many of its players, their children, and grandchildren had moved away after the mill shut down in the mid-1990s.

A few years back, several members of the team reunited for a tournament in Surrey. It was held 46 years after the team was first formed.

This recent gathering was a celebration of the team, the South Asian community of Campbell River past and present, and a celebration of the City of Campbell River itself. I can’t wait for the next one.

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