Monday, July 27, 2015

One Man's Experience of the PCSL

[The following are the recollections and experiences of one person. They do not represent any person or group other than the author.]


The Pacific Coast Soccer League, where Victoria Highlanders found themselves playing for 2015, finishes each season with a weekend cup tournament featuring the top four teams in the league. On Saturday July 25th number one (based on the final league standings) played number four and numbers two and three played. The winners from these games played on Sunday the 26th for the cup.

Jason and I decided to make a weekend out of the games - and add-on a Whitecaps game at BC Place on Sunday. This was possible because the field for the tournament was within walking distance of the Caps home stadium. Sadly this was virtually the only positive thing that could be said about the venue for the PCSL's ultimate contest.

Arriving at the venue on Saturday we discovered a recreational turf with two playing fields, player shelters, change rooms and rumours of public washrooms. We found no seating for spectators, no programs*, and no concessions of any kind  - only rumours of a hot dog vendor who gave up when no one from the organizers showed up in time to let him to set up.  There was no scoreboard, or clock, or public address system. Without a PA system the teams were simply marched on the field and they did not bother with the national anthem.

As the game got under way Jason and I took up the classic Lake Side position behind the opposition goal with our drums and my spew-spew-zela.  Due to the recreational layout of the park, this placed us outside the chain link fence surrounding the turf.

We were delighted, briefly, when the President of the PCSL himself, Mr Dave Collard, approached us and introduced himself. I say briefly because barely were the introductions made before things started to go downhill.

Mr Collard asked that we move away from behind the net as we were disturbing the goalkeeper. It was unclear if he was reacting to a complaint or simply acting on his own initiative, but even before finding out who we were or actually observing our actions for more than five minutes, he was asking us to move off to the far side of the field from the spectators to avoid "disturbing" the players.

We politely declined and tried to engage in a conversation about appropriate supporter behaviour. We made it clear that we were doing nothing illegal. We tried to assure him that we were not using racist, sexist or homophobic chants or songs but this seemed to be unimportant. In fact it became quite clear quite quickly that simply by saying no to an unreasonable and unenforceable request that we had offended his sensibilities.

Mr Collard tried to invoke his position as President and his vast soccer knowledge and experience going back to his days "playing for Chelsea". Within two minutes he was threatening to report our activities to the police if we did not cease and desist doing what we have done at Highlanders games for the past seven seasons.

Marching away in a tizzie Mr Collard was observed making a phone call which we assumed would be to the police. None ever showed but we continued to make our presence known throughout the first half. Being perhaps a little aggrieved we made sure to switch ends at the half and took up the position at the other end for the second half.  It was at that point an older woman walking her small dog passed us by and informed us were " mean and disgusting" but did acknowledge that we would, "probably like that."

We simply laughed, said thank you, and assumed she was the keeper's mother.

The half finished and we applauded the beleaguered Mariner's keeper and he gave us a wry grin before trotting off. Our lads had won, earning a trip to the next days final.

What we did not know was that our lads had also earned two more ferry rides. Not knowing if they would need to stay for Sunday's final, neither the Highlanders nor Mariners (the two island teams) had made arrangements for expensive hotel rooms and thus both teams headed for the ferry home. The Highlanders of course now facing the prospect of a round-trip before the game Sunday.

On Sunday we made the choice not to bring the drums to the game. It was raining, Jason wanted to concentrate on taking photos and lugging them to BC Place for the Caps v Quakes made it an easy decision.

That did not stop the PCSL officialdom however. We had barely arrived at the non-venue when a Mr. Joe Hrgovic arrived and identified himself as VP of the league. (Strange that looking at PCSL.org he is listed as the "League Coordinator - Women's Division" as of this writing. In case you were wondering the league has not had a Women's Division for a couple of years.) He proceeded to give us the same nonsense as Mr Collard the previous day with the addition of insurance concerns. Yes, it was his contention that our drumming and noise could potentially cause an injury to a goalkeeper or other player. As this was a liability issue they would have to insist that we not drum behind the goal.

Again we tried to engage in a conversation about supporters activities but he was less interested than Mr. Collard had been. He became agitated and stormed off without any real attempt to hear our perspective.

At that point I wanted to defuse the situation somewhat and, to be honest, not let them think we were NOT drumming because of their request. I approached the two of them and tried to be jovial in telling then we would not be drumming as we had not even brought the drums. This was not appreciated by Mr Collard who began regaling me with tales of calls to "city officials" and assurances that as the renters of the facility they had full control over all activities in the public park surrounding the fenced fields. He claimed to have been told that they had been assured that police could be called to have us removed.

At this point he strayed even further into fantasy land. He, not I, brought up the Southsiders and their activities and tried to tell me that our sort of behaviour was not tolerated at BC Place. When I pointed out to him that in fact the Soutsiders and Curva Collective are located RIGHT BEHIND the goal he lost it completely again bringing up his vast experience.

He also tried to tell us that the Highlanders, the same people who laughed and applaud us regularly, thought ill of our activities. 

At this point, having done our homework I called him on his bullshit and pointed out that we knew that he had not, in fact, "played for Chelsea". His claim then changed to having  played as a schoolboy. As someone with "any soccer knowledge" would know, claiming to have, "played for Chelsea" can only ever refer to the first team. Anything else must be qualified ie: reserves, on trial, academy, etc.

We tried to enjoy the game. It was tension filled with end to end action. I tooted my horn (which Mr Colard kept referring to as a "flute" for some reason) for kicks and in the second half their keeper shanked one badly and called over to us "you got me" with a smile.

The game ended 0-0. Extra time produced a potential game-winner that was equalized by them less than three minutes before time. Their keeper, who looked sharp all game earned MOTM honours saving three of our first four penalties and winning Khalsa the cup.

We had to make a run for BC Place where the game was kicking off something like 15 minutes later. It was nice to be somewhere that supporter culture is more welcomed than the PCSL. Clearly the Coast League aims to be nothing more than a recreational league.  The new D3 cannot come to this province soon enough and put them out of their misery.

-Ted

* [edited, July 28] I have since been informed that their was at least some attempt at a program available at the start of the tournament.



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