Soccer in Winnipeg is thriving. And nowhere is it more evident than the Manitoba Golden Masters Soccer Club who play at the University of Manitoba Soccer Complex every Monday and Thursday.
This is a league for men over 50 years of age. Although newcomers are welcome there is a waiting list to get onto a team in the league, such is the demand. Most of the players, who have been playing the game all of their lives can now find competition with other players of their own age group.
Teams in the league wear shirts emblazoned with club logo, the Manitoba Golden Boy and the Latin inscription “Aeterna Juvenis” – Eternal Youth.
The league is about six years old now and was formed by Don Norquay. A void was created in the local amateur soccer community with the closing of the Court Sports Recreation and Soccer Complex on Taylor Avenue.
It was shortly afterwards that the new soccer facility opened at the university and Norquay seeing an opportunity quickly snapped up a couple of time slots and put out the word.
In no time at all a thriving new league had sprung up to let our more senior players keep on kicking.
The league runs year round and is divided into summer and winter seasons. This means that every six months the teams are shuffled and re-balanced, allowing everyone to play with each other at some time.
There’s over 90 registered players with the club and their average age is 58. A lot of players are in their early fifties and seem to do most of the running. There’s also several players in their sixties and a smattering of seventy year olds who come out every week.
Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber defensive lineman Jim Heighton, a lifelong soccer player who’s just turned seventy is one of the players.
But the older statesman of this league has to be Ron Stenning who has just celebrated his 82nd birthday and has no intention of hanging up his boots yet.
In fact he’s just bought a new pair of soccer shoes, in a dazzling yellow colour and he happily points out that they came with a ten year warranty.
As I played with him the other night he was called upon to take a penalty kick for his team. He unleashed a hard solid shot on goal that found the upper right hand corner easily beating the goalkeeper. The goalie Wolfgang Trauer should have had it though, he was a sprightly young lad of just 75.
The lads in the team have offered to honour Stenning by retiring his jersey and hoisting it up to the rafters. He wasn’t having any of it though. “I’m too young to retire yet” he said.