Charlie Mayer trips up the Mexico defenseman in the second of two games the Okanagan played this week. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

Okanagan hosts Mexico for soccer

The Okanagan Masters League won both matches against their Mexican counterparts

By Brennan Phillips

Western News Staff

For the last two years, Mexico has hosted a team of players from the Okanagan’s Masters League of soccer, and this September was our turn to return the favour.

“For the last year they’ve been talking to me about coming up to Canada one day,” said John Ugyan, the president of the Okanagan Masters League. “We hadn’t expected anything to come of it, as you know, Mexicans in general are very poor and the last they can afford is to pay for a trip to play two games of football. Then a month I got the email that said 21 had bought plane tickets, and we had two weeks to get ourselves a team together.”

For the last week, the Okanagan has hosted the 29 players and a few of their wives from Mexico. The local players have done their best to give their guests an entertaining vacation, aside from the soccer. Bike rentals and rides up into the hills, a barbecue for all of both teams, stopping by to play Kelowna’s piano for a song with the team, and a party out on Okanagan Lake as well.

The annual event grew out of Ugyan’s love for football. During his vacations to Zihautanejo, he wanted to keep up with the sport he played at home, eventually finding a team to join six years ago through a meeting with some other Canadians. Then he and some players from the Okanagan Masters League went down three years ago, and the tradition was born.

“We all love soccer, and if we didn’t want to keep playing, none of this would have happened,” said Ugyan. “The guys you see on the field here are the guys who will be playing until they’re totally unable to play.”

The Okanagan team took home the win in both games they hosted, 2-1 in Kelowna on Sept. 17 and 4-3 on Sept. 20. The players, from Penticton, Summerland, and Kelowna, were mostly over 60, with a few who were over 50 to even out the ages with the players from Mexico. The Sunday game in particular was a close, even match, with Mexico taking up a 3-1 lead until well into the second half.

“It was very good, a tie would have been fine with a game like this, but I’ll take a 4-3 win,” said player and coach Harry Higson. “They’ve beaten us a couple times before. We normally play the first game and it’s fairly even, and we might win by the odd goal, but the second game they get serious and bring in ringers from all around. Now we’ve beaten them twice here, and we’ll be back down there in January until February.”

The games and the trips are about more than just soccer. The team and players also raise money to purchase soccer shoes for the poorest kids in Mexico, who would otherwise be unable to afford them.

“We raised about $1,200 last year, and the organizers there made sure the money went to those kids. Then they made arrangements to bring them to the last game, and make a big presentation to the kids, and it was fantastic to see the smiles on their faces,” said Ugyan. “Other clubs here learned we were going, and contributed jerseys they weren’t using and we gave those away too.”

The Okanagan Masters League Playoffs between Kelowna and the South Okanagan start Sept. 23 at Dale-Meadows Field in Summerland. If you would like to donate, you can contact John Ugyan at intelfin@shaw.ca.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


@PentictonNews
newstips@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RDOS cannabis production bylaw goes to public hearing

Hearing on micro cannabis production facilities will be held Nov. 21

Growing cherries, apples, pears — and big pumpkins

Boerboom worked to produce a massive melon from his Summerland farm

Drivers warn of slippery conditions on the Coquihalla

Snow is falling at the Summit of the Coquihalla

RDOS issues 405 building permits in first nine months of 2019

Construction activity higher this year than during same period last year

Summerland Steam face North Okanagan Knights in two games

Junior B hockey teams compete in regular season action

Election 2019: Robert Mellalieu — Green Party candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Robert Mellalieu is running for the Green Party in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

Natalie MacMaster makes Okanagan one of two B.C. stops

Queen of the Fiddle in town Oct. 24

Shooters compete in Summerland

Seven youth participants take aim

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Greta Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta, but doesn’t talk oilsands

Swedish teen was met with some oil and gas industry supporters who came in a truck convoy

Scheer denies spreading ‘misinformation’ in predicting unannounced Liberal taxes

Conservative leader had claimed that a potential NDP-Liberal coalition could lead to a hike in GST

Council asks to limit cruise ship visits to Victoria harbour

Mayor says motion is not meant to curtail current visits or limit local cruise industry expansion

Grab your Lederhosen, Penticton Oktoberfest is tomorrow!

The 10th annual event is hosted at the Penticton Lakeside Resort and kicks off Penticton Beer Week

Most Read