My love of the Vancouver Whitecaps: Where it all began…

July 20, 2008 at 4:19 am | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium | 2 Comments

I became a Vancouver Whitecaps fan in 1979 when I watched the semi-final between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the New York Cosmos on the tele from Giant’s Stadium.  The Whitecaps had won the first leg at home. This is when Jim Mckay of ABC’s Wide World of Sports made his now famous comment about the “village” of Vancouver.   This was percieved by the city as an insult (although upon reflection it was an apt description of Vancouver at the time!).  

I can’t remember watching the first leg with any great interest, but the village of Vancouver comment had really galvanized the city (and myself) behind the Whitecaps cause. There was a sense that the Caps would get thrashed by the Cosmos back in NYC but the city had a mad desire to beat the Cosmos.  

The second leg, which the Cosmos won, and the following “mini-game” which acted as the tie breaker have been described as the best game in NASL history, and there is no doubt that this is true.   I would say that it was one of the great games in soccer history, on par with Italy-Brazil of the 1982 World Cup final (though not played at the same level, of course) and Brazil-France from the 1986 World Cup final.   The match went from one spine tingling thrill to the next and involved two “shoot-outs” which were a distinctly North American invention meant to break a tie because North Americans could not abide a tie.    I found the Final in which we beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies, again in Giant’s stadium, was  a bit of a disappointment because it was just another run-of-the-mill soccer game.  

The Caps had a rock solid defence backed up by goalkeeper Phil “Lofty” Parkes who was a giant of a man, and Roger Kenyon and John Craven at the back, two ruthless veterans forged in the tough English first division.  Watching the game now it is remarkable how “Lofty” was rarely tested by the Cosmos. The great World Cup winner Alan Ball of Everton, Blackpool and Arsenal fame pulled the strings in midfield, and it is thought that it was his move to the Whitecaps from the Philidelphia Fury in mid-season was what took the Caps all the way.  King Kevin Hector and Trevor Whymark were our strikers, with Scotsman Wee Willie Johnston providing the crosses.   Vancouver’s own Bob Lenarduzzi helped out by potting a goal in the shoot-out  as did little Derek Posse, who ultimately settled in Vancouver along with Waiters and Valentine. 

In Vancouver the song “White is the Color” played over and over again as the city reached fever pitch in anticipation of the final.

Trevor Whymark scored two goals in a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay.  I can still see Whymark’s ecstatic celebration after scoring his first goal.   

My mom took me to the victory parade.  We stood outside of Eaton’s on Granville Mall.  I can remember Carl Valentine was pumping his fists in the air.  Tony Waiters looked a bit exhausted and had his usual serious look about him.   He did flash a smile or two though.

After watching this I started playing soccer myself as a lad of 14.  I was hooked on footy and I have been hooked ever since.  I have had a few periods where I stopped watching and playing for a while, but the game will always be in my blood… Thanks to the Vancouver Whitecaps!

It warms my heart to see that the team is building towards its former status under the inspired leadership of Greg Kerfoot and Bob Lenarduzzi.  Could we ever repay these guys? I don’t think so but I am certainly grateful to them.  God bless ’em!

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2 Comments »

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  1. What was Willie Johnson’s Vancouver Whitecap number?


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