Photo by Chung Chow
One was at a loss for words, another nearly lost his voice. But there was no questioning the level of euphoria of either team administrator surrounding Africa winning the 2018 Nations Cup Men’s Open Division championship.
“I’m so elated words cannot express how happy I am,” said Jerry Gbardy, president of the African Canadian Soccer and Cultural Community Association, which for many years has sponsored four teams at the annual Richmond-based soccer tournament.
Gbardy recalled an earlier time when the dads of some current players suited up for Africa. He said it reflects the evolution of the club.
“To come this far and win 5-1 (in the final over Canada) is a statement to any team that when we come back to defend next year, they’d better be prepared for us,” he said Sunday at sun-baked Hugh Boyd Park.
Head coach Desmond Tachie, who struggled to speak after the club’s second pool match—a 2-1 win over Iran, said Africa’s team spirit was critical to its success.
“Every game we got stronger,” he said, impressed by the efforts of his players to unite for a common cause despite many not having played together before.
After going 3-0 in pool play, which included blanking both Saudi Arabia and Japan 2-0, Africa stepped up for a 3-2 win over defending champion Italy in penalty kicks in semifinal play.
Canada, meanwhile, upset Italy 2-1 in Sunday’s other semifinal. Canada was fit to be tied in their first two tournament games, 1-1 against Serbia and 2-2 versus Scotland, before blanking Portugal 2-0 Sunday morning.
The other men’s tournament finals were as follows:
•Over 52—China 3 Serbia 1
•Over 30—India 1 Caribbean 0
•Over 45—Fiji 2 Germany 1
•Over 38—India 1 Serbia 0
Robbie Glezen of Africa was selected the most outstanding player in the Men’s Open Division, while teammate Brendan Skinner got the nod as most outstanding defender. Italy’s Carlo Basso was the top goal scorer for the third consecutive year.