Surrey United’s U15 girls soccer team (in red) on the pitch in June of 2014. (File photo)

SOCCER

Surrey soccer players run 6,000K ‘to Halifax,’ for victims of mass shooting

Symbolic journey ‘a target, some incentive, and it’s really caught fire,’ club official says

Soccer players with Surrey United are on a symbolic run to Nova Scotia as a group, in a show of support for victims of the mass shooting there.

With soccer games and practices cancelled for now, the Cloverdale Athletic Park-based association’s Run to Halifax Challenge doubles as a way to keep players active and fit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Challenge sees players record their individual, socially-distanced runs on a Google form, with the goal of a 6,000-kilometre journey to Nova Scotia from April 25 to May 9.

As of Day 2 on Sunday (April 26), players have run close to 850 kilometres – the equivalent of getting to Calgary, pretty much.

“We were trying to come up with a way to keep our kids moving, in the event a return to play happens soon,” said Jeff Clarke, the club’s technical director. “It’s a target, some incentive, and it’s really caught fire. We’ve had Calgary Foothills come on board and they’re getting their members to do it, and also Coquitlam Metro Ford. It’s just a way to inspire our club to stay training and it’s snowballing into something bigger and better.”

On Surrey United’s Facebook page, video shows Clarke in a “Monday motivation” demonstration of volleying skills that players can try at home.

(Story continues below)

This week, teams with Surrey United and other soccer associations in B.C. would be preparing for playoffs and provincial championships to come, with club nationals set for the fall, as always.

“We’re really the only province in our situation, because our competition phase is different than others,” Clarke noted. “The rest of the country was supposed to start playing next weekend, until the end of August. Our season was compromised because of when (the pandemic) hit in mid-March, so nationals might still go ahead, and they might go ahead without a B.C. rep, we’re not sure, but nothing official has come out on that.”

Clarke said it’s too early to suggest when a restart of soccer may happen, but he and others hope it’s soon.

“It’s a million-dollar question,” he said. “Right now we’re just trying to prepare for every possible variation or stage or return to play, some being more restrictive than others. We know it’s a low likelihood of us returning to what we knew three months ago, but we hope in the next six weeks we can at least get kids out there and reconnecting, and that be with lesson plans built around social distancing or other restrictions, where health authorities deem it safe and appropriate with what’s going on.”

As a way to stay connected, players and teams are conducting online chats with Zoom and similar apps, he said.

“If you think about these young kids, the social side of their life and their teammates, that’s a big part of who they are, and you can see their faces light up when they see those teammates on the screens,” Clarke noted. “So hopefully soon we can pull them onto a field, even if it’s keeping a distance, I think that will go a long way to helping everything in the big picture as well.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2018: Surrey United celebrates 50 years of soccer at day-long event.

In other Surrey United news, Nick Perugini is leaving his position as assistant technical director of the club, but will continue in his role as head coach of its BCSPL program. Perugini said he will be pursuing other professional opportunities starting in July.

“He’s going to leave a big hole,” Clarke said of his assistant. “Nick’s a big personality and a great worker, and now he wants to do some other things, and we’ll miss him in that position.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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