The Pinnacles FC is hosting the ultimate soccer showcase this weekend with nearly 1,000 young players doing battle in the 19th annual Peach City Classic soccer tournament.
A total of 54 teams, including nine PFC Excelsior squads, and others from the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Kootenay’s, northern B.C. and Alberta will compete in the three-day competition which kicks off Friday (Aug. 12).
Youth teams in 13 divisions will be playing throughout the tournament at both Kings Park in Penticton and Dale Meadows in Summerland.
Two PFC teams, the girls U17/18 and the boys U16 teams will be back this year to defend their gold-medal winning performances of 2015.
And while the Classic itself has long been regarded as one of the best events in the province, at one time fielding over 100 teams, local players have since become a force to be reckoned with at the highest levels, according to PFC head coach Ezra Cremers.
“We are known as the little club that is doing big things and we’re getting regional recognition, provincial recognition and even Canada-wide recognition for what we’re doing in little Penticton,” said Cremers. “Over the last few years now we are putting players in universities all over the province and that’s what the local program is –— help players reach their dream.”
With 200 players on the nine Excelsior teams he believes the competitive aspect of the program is on the rise and with 1,800 registrants on the recreational side he believes the game is continuing to grow in popularity.
“In next 10, 20 years you’re going to see 2,000 people at Kings Park wanting to watch a “Junior A” football team and our goal is that it’s not filled with out-of-town players but with local players and I think that’s what a true community sport needs to have,” said Cremers. “That’s the cradle-to-grave full-circle program that we’re trying to create of the next couple of decades here.”
He blamed part of the decline in the number of tournament entries on the difficulty in finding accommodations for visiting teams. To that end, the club is investigating the possibility of moving the date of the event.
Also, because of the pressure being put on the soccer pitches at Kings Park other areas are being looked at for new or improved fields.
This weekend’s tourney runs through Sunday.