Two local soccer groups have come together in what they hope will be a mutually beneficial partnership, and now, Roop Virk says it’s time to start dreaming.
Chilliwack FC and the Chilliwack Rapids hammered out a few final details Monday night, setting the stage for what Virk hopes will be a Rapids revival.
“They’ve got a phenomenal organization that we get to be a part of, and that’s exciting,” the Rapids manager said. “It guarantees our future and now we can start dreaming about the future and the possibilities.”
The partnership is described as an affiliation, a 50-50 arrangement that brings the Rapids’ premier and masters teams under the CFC umbrella.
CFC will provide administrative support. More importantly, they’ll provide a steady stream of young talent that has been missing in recent times.
The Rapids will provide youth soccer access to a huge pool of experience while adding a ‘tip to the development spear.’
CFC has been building a strong grassroots base for years, and the club now offers academy programs for players as young as seven years old. CFC is strong right up to the U-21 level, with men’s and women’s teams in the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s U-21 reserve divisions, plus a U-21 Fraser Valley Soccer League men’s team.
But beyond that, there’s been a void.
Teaming with the Rapids is, as CFC head coach Glenn Wilson puts it, the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle as his association pursues it’s ‘cradle to the grave’ philosophy.
“We’re bringing in all these young players and developing them, and what we need to give them is something to aspire to,” he explained. “Now, we’ve got this pathway right up to the Fraser Valley Men’s Premier division, and beyond that to masters. We’ve got this carrot we can dangle for them where they can continue playing soccer at a high level without having to leave Chilliwack.”
It sounds so logical bringing CFC and the Rapids together.
What took so long?
“There were some minor negotiations over the last few years, but I think this year both sides realized how much we can gain from this,” Wilson noted. “They needed to bring more youth into their program and we needed to bring more experience into ours. This time around, both parties saw some real value in this.”
The Rapids and CFC have always been cordial and mutually respectful, all the while operating at a distance.
“Sometimes, the most obvious things take a while to realize,” Virk said. “It’s staring you right in the face but it’s so obvious you miss it. This is one of those things where we’re asking ourselves, ‘Why didn’t we do this 10 years ago?’”
If there was one obstacle to affiliation that proved more daunting than the rest, it was the notion that one side or the other might lose its identity and autonomy.
Some Rapids players expressed concern that the club would be absorbed so that CFC could get their cherished premier division spot.
“It took some reassurance that this is not us taking over the Rapids, this is an alliance between two forces,” Wilson said. “I think they’re going to be impressed to be a part of our organization, with the coaching and administration and training facilities that we can offer.”
“We feel like we’ve been the torch-bearers for top end soccer in Chilliwack for many years, going all the way back to the guys who played in the 70’s and 80’s,” Virk said. “One of our concerns was making sure that history wouldn’t be erased, because you can’t have a healthy future without knowing about your past.”
Newly renamed the Chilliwack FC Rapids, the premier team will be guided by coach Gary Moffett, a newcomer to Chilliwack who has been charged with building a roster from scratch.
While the name and history of the Rapids is being retained, Wilson said it will be a completely fresh start on the field, with all roster spots up for grabs. That means no guarantees for former Rapids and none for hotshot U-21s. Everyone will have to earn their way onto the team.
“One of the nice things about having Gary as coach is that he is new to Chilliwack,” Wilson said. “He doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t have preconceived notions about anyone.”
Wilson believes there are some great 1992 and 1993 born players playing at the men’s recreational level who would be capable of playing premier. Virk wants to see them at upcoming training sessions (Monday and Wednesday nights at Townsend Park).
“If you think you’re one of the best soccer players you’ve ever seen, you want to come out and prove it,” he said. “If you’ve got that sort of talent and you’re playing for someone other than the Chilliwack FC Rapids, you’ll want to re-think that.”
Virk said the premier league is an eye-opening challenge for many players.
“Port Coquitlam had Major League Soccer players playing for them last year, and that’s the calibre you’ll see in the league,” he said. “It’s not for the shy or wilty because you’re playing against some of the very best this province, and frankly this country, has to offer.”
The Rapids have had success in the not-too-distant past, but the team has struggled in the last two or three years. Virk believes an infusion of talent will help the team become stronger than it has ever been.
“If we concentrate our forces, we can compete with the bigger club powerhouses in Surrey, Langley, Port Moody and White Rock,” Virk said. “It wasn’t too long ago that we were winning the league title and playing in front of 400 fans. It’s a tall order, but we think we can get back to that and be at the point where we’re competing for provincial titles.”
As for long-term dreams, both men are thinking big. Wilson hopes the alliance will one day help land a covered year-round facility.
“If I had a personal goal, it would be to see soccer become such a dominant sport in this community that we would convince the city to build us an indoor facility,” Wilson said. “Something that would let our players play year round without worrying about wet weather or ruining fields. That would be the true final piece of my jigsaw puzzle for building soccer in this community.”
Virk hopes the alliance will one day lead to a fieldhouse.
“After university I went to play at the Vancouver Rowing Club, and they had a clubhouse with history,” Virk said. “Seeing the plaques and trophies and faces on the wall, you had a sense that you were a part of something bigger, and as a player it was pretty inspiring.”
Find info at www.chilliwackrapidssoccer.com or www.chilliwackfc.com.