There was a time, according to some of the old-school, diehard soccer fans in the area, that Powell River Villa soccer club could count on 200 to 300 fans per game.
That was back in the golden era of the team, in the 1990s, when it was winning Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL) championships and hoisting the Sir John Jackson Cup.
“We travelled to some great games and saw them pick up a lot of trophies in those years,” said Ted Tunstall, who has been a fan of the team since he moved here in 1980. “The fan base then was just fantastic. We used to have a great time.”
Tunstall is part of a group of 20 to 30 fans who have committed to build a supporters club for Villa and, hopefully, bring back some of the guys who were part of “the zoo.” The zoo was a fully enclosed fan zone at the old Timberlane pitch that bellowed full-throated cheers and boisterous songs.
According to Tunstall, that pitch was much more conducive for fans than where the club now plays its home games at the new Timberlane Park.
“Since the move from the old field where we had our own bleachers set up, the new field causes all kinds of problems for the club,” he said.
Some of those problems include lack of suitable protection from the elements for the fans and having to cancel and reschedule home games because of rain that forces the city to close the facility.
“We’re interested in getting involved,” said Tunstall. “There are things we feel we can do to help the club.”
Tunstall said one of the things the supporters club can do is lobby City of Powell River on Villa’s behalf.
“We can show up at the council meetings and let them know how we feel,” he said. “We’re of the opinion that the city hasn’t done very much to help the Villa soccer club ever since that Timberlane project went ahead.”
Another initiative of the supporters club is the sale of official Villa team scarves as a fundraiser for the team. The scarves will be available for sale in the community soon.
While the new supporters club work on the Villa’s fan base, the team’s new coach, Mario Paul, has the players working out at Brooks Secondary Schools’ turf pitch.
“The official open tryout and training camp started on Tuesday, August 2,” said Paul. “We’ll follow with every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm after that until the season starts.”
Everyone is welcome to tryout, according to Paul, and he has seen some encouraging signs for the team from new and older players.
“I believe we have a solid core of players that potentially could be able to get us into higher rankings in the VISL,” he said.
According to Paul, he is of the same mind as the supporters group when it comes to Villa’s home field at Timberlane.
“The only concern I have is it lacks the intimacy that was the experience in past Villa seasons when the fans were close to the field and had some engagement,” he said. “The field itself is fine. It’s a phenomenal location, but it’s not fan-friendly.”