In this series, passionate soccer supporters tell their story of falling in love with the beautiful game, and how they’re helping lead the charge in their communities to support new clubs in the Canadian Premier League.
In 1982, Italian soccer icons Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli each scored a goal in the World Cup final to deliver a 3-1 win over West Germany, instilling a lasting love of the beautiful game in then-12-year-old James Covey of Halifax.
Some three decades on, Covey is now helping spearhead the growth of soccer in his home city of Halifax, as a member of Privateers 1882 Supporters Group, which was once called the Wanderers Supporters Group, a name they gave back to their new club.
“We handed over the Wanderers name, which had this long history in Halifax of the Wanderers Amateur Athletic Club, and various groups like us who had borrowed that name,” Covey told the CPL. “We handed that out to the club but we really wanted to point back to that history, that storied place. That’s where the 1882 comes from in our name, Privateers 1882, because that’s the year that the Wanderers Amateur Athletic Club was founded.
“It’s funny, because 1882 is at least 100 years too late for actual privateers, but we really wanted to refer somehow to that history,” Covey continued. “My personal feeling was that it’s a bit cheesy for a team name, but it’s not too cheesy for a supporters group, because pirates are fun and everybody wants to be a pirate!”
Covey and his fellow soccer-loving swashbucklers met for the first time in January of 2017, and since then, they have met regularly, working together to ensure their new club has vocal support where and when it counts.
“What really stirred us and gave us real impetus was when it became evident that there was going to be a decision before city council to allow or not allow Sports and Entertainment Atlantic to use the Wanderers Ground for a CPL team,” Covey said. “It’s a public piece of land so it was a very public process, and it gave impetus to our efforts, because suddenly we were activists. This is where I jumped in, because we felt very strongly we needed to get our voice out there.
“We wanted to make it really clear, really manifest to anyone doing decision-making on this that there was a lot of support of it in the community, to bring professional soccer to Halifax on the Wanderers Grounds. Part of doing that was trying to educate the public about the history of that piece of property – it’s been a sports field since the 1880s.”
Indeed, the history of soccer runs deep in Halifax, though professional sport has been somewhat elusive in Nova Scotia. As it stands, HFX Wanderers FC will be among the few sporting options available to Haligonians, a factor Covey hopes will drive support.
“I’m super optimistic,” Covey said of the new team’s exclusivity in his city. “It’s a factor and we benefit from it, so I think there’s definitely going to be a contingent of people who are coming in from a point of view of, hey, well, usually there’s only sports here to watch from October to May with junior hockey, but now there’s something happening (in the summer). We’re definitely going to pull in people who are looking for that kind of experience.”
It’s an experience that will be spearheaded by newly-named HFX Wanderers FC head coach Stephen Hart, who Covey believes is “the most capable set of hands” in Halifax.
“I’m really excited about this choice,” Covey said of Hart’s appointment. “I’m glad that we were able to land him. It’s just the perfect fit. Here’s a guy who knows what the game is about internationally and has a history of bringing a national championship to our city, so he really is the best candidate. I’m really pleased. I feel like it’s yet another move by the club that they got really, really right.”