Former professional and national team soccer player Drew Ferguson has been inducted into the Soccer Hall of Fame of British Columbia, four years after receiving the same honour from the Powell River Sports Hall of Fame.
Ferguson, who learned and played the beautiful game locally from the age of five, as well as having played for several professional teams, also scored the only goal for Canada’s national team in a 1-0 victory over the Faroe Islands in April 1989. Ferguson said being inducted into the hall of fame is an honour and a pleasure.
“The BC soccer hall of fame, when you look at all the names, there are players who have played for Canada and people who have played in England and Europe; there are 167 soccer players who are represented, so it’s pretty impressive,” said Ferguson. “Any time you get recognized for your achievements, it’s an honour. It’s hard to make a living in sports. There’s only a few of you. There’s only so many who get to represent their county. I’m so proud of playing for Canada, as I am for representing BC in the under 16 and 18 teams, and playing with the Canada Games team in 1977, scoring six goals. But obviously, putting on the Canada jersey is the ultimate prize.”
Ferguson played for the national team between 1985 and 1991, appearing in 10 games. For the game he scored in at the Faroe Islands, Ferguson said he was named captain of the Canadian team because regular captain Bruce Wilson didn’t make the game.
“Being captain of the team was kind of a high pressure thing,” he added.
The Faroe Islands game was followed up by a game in Denmark, which, the year before, had been European champion.
“We were up against one of the best teams in the world and they beat us 2-0,” said Ferguson. “That was probably the biggest game I played in for Canada. Given how good Denmark was, it wasn’t a bad result, actually.”
In terms of his professional career, he was playing in the North American Soccer League (NASL) during its heyday. He said some of the best soccer players in the world, such as George Best, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff were playing in the NASL.
“Major League Soccer (MLS) has some quality people, you know, seven, eight, nine or 10, but we had 50, 60, 70 of the best players in the world in the NASL,” said Ferguson. “You get to say you played against those players, so that was very fortunate for me.”
In the NASL, Ferguson spent most of his time with the Edmonton Drillers between 1979 and 1982, where he played 80 games and scored four goals.
When the NASL wound down, Ferguson played indoor soccer in the United States for the Major Indoor Soccer League.
“Obviously I preferred outdoor soccer, because that’s what you dream about, but the indoor game was very good to me,” said Ferguson. “We were playing in hockey arenas on artificial turf and it’s a fast game. If you were a good ball striker, you could score. It was basically like hockey with running shoes.
“I had a lot of success there, winning the scoring title for the top North American point-getters (Cleveland Force). As great as that was, it wasn’t as good as putting on your Canadian jersey and playing outdoors in front of thousands of people.”
At Ferguson’s induction on November 4, there were three other players, a Canadian amateur women’s team, the Surrey Mariners club that won Canadian championships, plus a referee and three builders. Ferguson said he was able to make a number of acquaintances at the event, including some from the Vancouver Island Soccer League, where Ferguson had played for Powell River Villa.
Ferguson said as far as he knows, he’s the only one in BC and possibly Canada in senior amateur soccer to win league most valuable player in three different decades. His first came when he was 18, in the 1970s. Ferguson said it was impressive because there were guys on the field who were probably better than him.
He came back to play for Villa in the mid-80s, when the NASL folded, once again being accorded best player honours. After, he went away and started coaching, but returned to this community in the early 90s, to once again be named the league’s most valuable player.
In terms of his position in soccer, Ferguson spent most of his time in the midfield because he was a very fit athlete. As his career advanced, he moved rearward, playing as a centre back. He said it was a good move because he was getting older and because he could read the game so well.
“Even though you’re getting older, as long as you know what you’re doing, life is good,” said Ferguson.
He still is heavily involved in soccer, having been coach of the Canadian national para soccer team since 2005. Para soccer is played with seven players a side on a full-sized soccer pitch. The team includes athletes with cerebral palsy or acquired brain injuries.
The sport was part of the Paralympic Games from 1984 to 2016 but is currently not part of the Paralympic program. However, the team is preparing to be part of the Santiago [Chile] Parapan American Games team, which includes local player Duncan McDonald. The games are set for November 17 to 26 in Chile.
Ferguson said he has had training sessions leading up the games in several provinces and recently had a full training camp where all players were in attendance.
“It’s difficult because we are such a big country,” said Ferguson. “It’s expensive to fly everybody in and train for a few days.”
Canada’s para team is currently ranked ninth in the world and will be facing competition from Argentina, the United States, Venezuela, Chile and Brazil. Argentina, the US and Brazil are all ranked higher than Canada in the international standings, so Canada will be facing some tough competition.
Ferguson said he is hoping his team competes well against Venezuela and Chile to get a chance at a bronze medal game.
“That’s my goal,” he added.
Ferguson was inducted into the Powell River Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 as part of the inaugural class.
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