After travelling around the world, a Vancouver Island soccer team featuring two Cowichan Valley players ended up facing a fellow B.C. team for the gold medal at the World Masters Games in New Zealand this spring.
Along with teammates from Victoria, Campbell River, Port Alberni and Powell River, Tim Achtzner and Will Chaster travelled to the games with the Islanders FC in April, and came home with the gold medal for the men’s 55+ open division after beating a team from the Okanagan 2-0 in the tournament final.
The Islanders went undefeated through group play, with five wins and a tie, setting up their all-B.C. showdown in the final. The Cowichan duo accounted for a good portion of the Islanders’ offence, as Chaster scored the team’s first two goals of the tournament, and Achtzner added four of his own.
Although they seemed to have an easy path to the gold, it wasn’t as if the Islanders blew everyone out of the water.
“Our biggest win was by three goals,” Chaster noted. “Nobody seemed to not belong there.”
It was a busy schedule for the 55+ division, but the Islanders managed to cope.
“The biggest thing about playing seven games in nine days was if your better players got hurt, you’re in trouble,” Achtzner said. “That happened to a couple of teams. We were lucky our team avoided injuries. Ice baths saved us.”
The players were among 20,000 athletes from around the world competing in more than two dozen sports over two weeks.
“New Zealand was a lot of fun,” Achtzner said. “They sure know how to run a games.”
Achtzner had played with the Islanders previously, attending the 2005 World Masters Games in Edmonton. Since then, the team has competed in Sydney in 2009 and Turin in 2013. Both local players were also with the Islanders when they finished second at the inaugural North American Masters Games in Vancouver last fall.
“It’s a good group of guys,” Achtzner said. “I can’t say enough. It was like one big happy family.”
The team did have to travel to New Zealand without a goalie, forcing some of the players to take turns in net.
“We just kept the ball in [the other team’s] end so we didn’t have to use the goalie,” Chaster noted.
There has already been talk among the Islanders players about going to Japan for the 2021 Masters Games, something the Cowichan players aren’t going to rule out.
“The key is staying healthy,” Chaster said.
“A lot of things can go wrong at our age,” Achtzner added.
The competitive fires will probably still be burning four years from now.
“I’m not the type to go and have fun,” Achtzner said. “If we’re going there, we’re going to win.”