Pacific FC celebrates unveiling, and first match, at new W̱SÁNEĆ School Board Mini-Pitch

Pacific FC played a part in the highly-anticipated opening of the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board Mini-Pitch Turf Field on Thursday afternoon near Brentwood Bay, B.C.

The five-a-side pitch was donated to the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board (WSB) by Pacific in 2021, in partnership with the Canadian Premier League’s #WeAreOneCommunity initiative. The WSB represents the W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples of the Tsartlip, Pauquachin, Tseycum and Tsawout Nations. The new facility is located at the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School, about 20 kilometres north of Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C.

The pitch’s official opening brought together students, members of the community and the school board and Pacific’s staff and players.

“We are at the end of the long journey and the beginning of another one, because we have really created a longer-term relationship (with the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board),” said Pacific FC Managing Director Paul Beirne. “The building portion is over but we are committed to continuing to work with them to provide opportunities for the kids in the school board to lead active lives and learn the wonderful lessons that soccer can teach.”

Pacific FC players and local students face off on Thursday (Photo: Sheldon Mack / Pacific FC)

Thursday’s event at the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ School was a special moment for its students, who have been anxiously awaiting the opening of the pitch.

“The students and even the organized teams in the community have been watching and waiting for it to be open so that they can start making use of it,” said Curtis Olsen, W̱SÁNEĆ School Board Administrator. “I was up there last week when they were laying the turf and there were a couple of players from one of the men’s teams and they were taking pictures of it and just all excited and anxious to be able to get out there and kick around on it.”

The mini-pitch’s construction was the result of a significant collaborative effort. Musco Lighting provided the steel framework and lighting system around the field, SixFive Sports & Entertainment provided critical funding, while Dano Thorne of NIFA, Dr. Jennifer Walinga of Royal Roads University and James Easton all provided important advice and connections in making this project possible.

Aside from the donation of the pitch, Pacific FC has also committed to hosting clinics and events on the field with local schools, as part of their wider mission to educate youth on the importance of living physically active lives.

Courtesy: Sheldon Mack / Pacific FC

“We are a club that’s defined by our purpose, and our purpose is all about young people and their mental health and their physical health and the intersection of those two things,” said Beirne. “Our work with this school board, and with the students at these schools, is all about that — teaching healthy lives, teaching healthy lifestyles. Giving kids space to be themselves.”

The students were given an example of what Pacific’s community involvement might look like when they played in a special friendly soccer match on the pitch with members of the team, following the day’s official unveiling ceremony. Students also got the chance to mingle with the players after the match.

“The excitement on the students, it was just amazing to see, amazing to see them getting autographs off the players after the game and so on,” said Olsen. “I think that goes a long way toward getting known in our community.”

Pacific’s Kunle Dada-Luke and Sean Young sign autographs for young fans at Thursday’s event (Photo: Sheldon Mack / Pacific FC)

The W̱SÁNEĆ community already has a number of standout players who are quickly earning opportunities for themselves in the game. The hope is that the new field will be yet another resource for young Indigenous players to continue honing their craft.

“We do have some really talented young players coming up in our community,” said Olsen. “We have one fellow that’s with the Whitecaps academy … we also have another one that’s going to be travelling to Barcelona next week to take part in an academy over there. This will certainly bring another opportunity for future stars in our community.”

That future star might already have graced the mini-pitch, which is quickly proving to be popular since it officially opened.

“There have been kids on it ever since the event happened today,” Olsen said with a chuckle. “The next challenge might be to make sure it gets shared equally.”