At the Petro-Can service station in Pemberton a good-looking young guy is gassing up his Chevy Z24. His smile and casual body language convey a sense of overall friendliness. The dream catcher hanging from his rearview mirror attests to his First Nations heritage and the bumper sticker speaks to his passion: Soccer is life.
The owner of the car is Alphonse Wallace, and for more than a decade he’s been shepherding Mount Currie’s Soccer Association along.
A little over 10 years ago, Wallace, a former high school athlete, put up a few posters around the community to gauge the interest in youth soccer. That fall about 20 kids showed an interest. Word got out that the soccer program was a lot of fun and by the spring there were close to 200 kids involved. Currently, there are 160 kids from kindergarten to high school age involved in youth soccer, with a separate men’s team catering to those 18 and older. Over the years, many of the town’s youth have proudly played for teams with such diverse monikers as The Rugrats, The Green Rascals, The Wolf Pack and The Big Wolf Pack.
Through participation in soccer, Mount Currie youth have had the opportunity to travel internationally to participate in tournaments. There is little doubt that most kids in this economically depressed community would not have otherwise had the chance to travel to Brazil or Scotland. The fact they have been invited to tournaments in these destinations directly relates to their prowess.
That, of course, brings us back to Alphonse Wallace. Incredibly modest, he’s more likely to point out the contributions that other community members have made to the organization before acknowledging his own contributions. Over the years, he has been a coach, organizer and main cheerleader for the association.
As of Christmas 2004, Wallace was contemplating cutting back substantially on his time commitment to the organization after the Scotland trip. Reminded of this, he just laughs.
Later this spring, a dinner will be held to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Mount Currie Soccer Association. As the celebration is being prepared, there will be 17 kids stepping up their training. Thanks in part to Wallace’s incredible dedication to the sport, 17 of the community’s soccer players aged 12 to 18, will be attending this July’s North American Indigenous Games in Denver, Colorado as members of provincial regional teams. Close to 9,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit athletes and cultural participants are expected to take part in the eight-day event, which will utilize 29 venues around the city, cost approximately $5 million US to produce and is attracting the attention of corporate sponsors such as sporting giant, Nike.