It was a massive goal in the moment, and it has unquestionably kept Valour FC smack dab in the middle of the playoff picture at the Canadian Premier League’s Island Games.
Masta Kacher’s right-footed howitzer into the corner in the 88th minute last Saturday gave Valour a critical 2-1 victory over FC Edmonton and has them in a tie with York9 FC for the final spot with two matches remaining in the first stage round-robin.
And in those seconds after Kacher’s brilliance, there was another powerful moment as Kacher sprinted to the sidelines, dropped to one knee and raised his right fist in support of the anti-racism movement that dominated the sporting world in the days leading up to the match and continues to do so this week.
It was a striking image – as the Algerian-born Canadian was flanked by two black teammates in Andrew Jean-Baptiste, an American of Haitian descent, and Canadian Julian Dunn. Seconds later they were joined by two caucasian players – Daryl Fordyce, a product of Northern Ireland who now calls Canada home, and Stefan Cebara, born in Croatia and raised in Canada.
“It’s a special goal for me, I’m very proud. But it was also for the team because it was great to grab the three points from that goal,” Kacher told CanPL.ca. “If it had been a less beautiful goal it wouldn’t have mattered to me, as long as we got the three points. That’s what makes it so special for me.”
“And the celebration… I had it in the back of my mind. Even before the tournament it was something I was thinking of and had planned. You never know when you are going to score, but in that case I knew what I wanted to do because I wanted to send a message in support of the cause.
“The diversity we have on the team, me as an immigrant to Canada and for everything that is going on in the world… I wanted to take the time to celebrate with my teammates something truly more powerful than a normal celebration. Maybe it’s something that can open people’s eyes. That was the message we wanted to transmit to everyone as a team.”
Consider that mission accomplished.
Still, racism is hardly an issue that will soon disappear. But what Kacher and the rest of his Valour FC squad hope is bringing attention to it will help spur further discussion.
It’s about educating others, too, to the experiences of people of colour.
Valour FC GM and coach Rob Gale has been part of those discussions with his players and, after speaking last Friday with Michael Redhead Champagne – the Winnipeg community leader and member of the Shamattawa Cree Nation – opted to wear a black arm band for Saturday’s match for the murdered and missing indigenous women of Manitoba.
“I cannot speak for other teams, but we have worked to educate ourselves, to put ourselves in other people’s positions to understand,” Kacher explained. “We have discussions on this as a team and Rob, the head coach, is actually trying to educate us on this because he is very concerned as well. It’s something he has in his heart.
“Our team, we have players from all over the world and this is an issue we take very seriously. We believe that by taking these small steps we can actually make a difference in our community. We’re trying to touch as many people as we can.”
Valour FC hopes to continue making statements – both as a football team and as humans in the fight against social injustices – Wednesday afternoon against HFX Wanderers.
It’s a massive tilt with both squads working to become one of the four teams to advance to the next stage of the Island Games. After Wednesday, Valour finishes the round-robin against defending CPL champion Forge FC, who lead the standings with three wins, two draw and a loss in six games.
“The last game against Edmonton we knew was a must-win game,” Kacher said. “And now you look at the standings again… everyone is so close a win or a point can change everything. We’re going day by day and focusing on the next game, to go out there and fight and get as many points as we can.
“This game is huge because Halifax is right under us in the table. It feels like a final.”