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Saanich News: Gorge Turns 50

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Gorge Soccer Club 50 and ready to celebrate


Michelle Martin/Saanich News

Terry Manna, president and longtime player of the Gorge Soccer Club, holds a historic photo of the club.

By Michelle Martin

Victoria News

Sep 06 2006

The Gorge Soccer Association emerged half a century ago to become a driving force behind organized sport in Victoria.

"We're the largest senior soccer association in Canada," said president Terry Manna, a longtime club player.

The GSA has grown from one senior and seven youth teams in 1956, to 56 youth teams and 19 senior teams today.

The association, that's celebrating its 50th anniversary this Friday, is reaped with "ferocious tradition and pride," noted Manna.

This pride has prompted players to stay actively involved over the decades, many volunteering countless hours to keeping the GSA co-ordinated and installing the turf field at Hampton Park last year.

Currently the 1,400 people are involved as players, managers, volunteers and coaches.

A club of this magnitude has meant many of Gorge players have gone on to successful professional soccer careers. Victoria-born defensive midfielder Bob Bolitho played in the GSA before moving onto the Canadian national team, the North American Soccer League, the Canadian Soccer League and the 1976 Olympic Games team.

George Pakos is another former GSA player who's won legendary status among soccer fans for scoring two of the most important goals in the history of Canadian soccer - they qualified for the Canadian team for the 1986 World Cup finals.

Other esteemed players with GSA ties include Graham Lee, Bruce Twamley, Shel Brodsgaard and Nicci Wright.

The soccer association that nurtured such high quality players had a core nucleus of proponents right from the get-go.

Don Wakelyn, now 81, was one of the club's founding fathers.

"It all originated with the 1956 Gorge senior team," he said, noting that many players on that team had played together since they were teenagers.

The 1956 senior team had spawned from the Vets of France Juvenile Soccer Team that moved up the ranks from amateur to senior competition in 1950.

However, 1956 was the first year the team was sponsored by the Gorge Hotel. That team is credited with boosting the GSA to what it has become today.

"I've been involved for 50 years and I don't know an organization that's quite as close as the group that started it all," Wakelyn said.

Many players from that original 1956 team will be part of the Gorge Soccer Association's 50th anniversary celebration.

A friday evening, 7-10 p.m. wine and cheese party at the Princess Mary Restaurant, 358 Harbour Rd., will be a walk down memory lane for many players with all the historic memorabilia on display.

A dedication will be made to the late Lorne Joans, who was the association's registrar for 27 years, along with over a dozen others who have contributed their time and effort over the years.

The following day at Hampton Park some fun soccer games, a coed seven-a-side game and an eleven-a-side old-timers game, will kick off at 11 a.m.

The participation fee includes a refreshment and a T-shirt. A beer garden and barbecue will be run alongside the games.

Tickets are $20 for the party and $15 for the fun soccer games. Visit www.gorgesoccer.ca for more information.

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