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PHOTOS: Rain soaked Kelowna CPL soccer match enthralls thousands

Despite the 0-0 score, the match between Vancouver FC and Calgary's Calvary FC was played in front of 6,281 fans

A dreary sky and constant rain on Sunday, June 16 had tried to dim the glow of Kelowna's first-ever competitive professional soccer match. 

However, the weather did not stop the deluge of fans to show up at Kelowna's Apple Bowl and watch the Canadian Premier League (CPL) soccer match between Vancouver FC (VFC) and Cavalry FC from Calgary.

The match, a first for professional soccer and the CPL in Kelowna, was a nervy, spirited affair that ended in a 0-0 draw. 

The visiting squad, Cavalry, fired 18 shots, but stingy defence from the Eagles (VFC's nickname) helped keep them off the scoresheet. 

Rob Friend, VFC's owner, was confident before the match of it being a sell-out. Nearly two hours later, as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, the public address announcer gave the final attendance number of 6,281, which blew past expectations.

Mark Noonan, the CPL commissioner, heaped praise on the City of Kelowna for their role in making the game a success.

"Every person that we've met in the city has been incredibly supportive," he said. "It's really the only way it works in these communities is that it has to be a partnership between the CPL, the clubs, as well as the city."

Noonan also mentioned that the match was being broadcast internationally, as the CPL match of the week. 

"It'll go to 35 countries around the world, and it'll be a postcard for Kelowna," Noonan explained. "That's the beauty of our game is every time the ball gets kicked, the cameras light up and it's a global commercial for our league, our players and the communities that we serve."

Only three teams in 2023 (Ottawa, Hamilton's Forge, Halifax) had an attendance number higher than the 6,281 in Kelowna.

Ball kids for the game were players from Thompson Okanagan FC and Okanagan FC, two youth soccer clubs in the city. Numerous players from both sides traversed throughout the city all weekend, spreading the word of the match.

Percy, a supporter of Cavalry FC, made the long trek from Calgary to watch his team play. 

"I drove, some flew. We love watching them and wouldn't want to miss this," he eagerly explained, while waving a massive Cavalry flag. "I know one thing, Kelowna needs a team. Who wouldn't want to come here to watch soccer?"

As the fans began filing out after the final whistle, Wojtek Dzikowski was one of the few sitting back, taking in the atmosphere. 

"My boy was playing so it was amazing to see him compete here," he said, referring to Sebastian Dzikowski, who came on as a sub for Vancouver FC for the final 30 minutes.

"As the sport grows more and more in the country, I think that this city would do great to have a team like this here, as the atmosphere was one of the best I experienced in Canada."

The 0-0 draw now slots VFC third overall in the eight-team CPL league standings, while Cavalry are in sixth. 

Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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