By Greg Price
A trio of wily veterans from the Taber Police Service helped a Lethbridge team win its Monday League championship in the Southern Oldtimer Football Association.
Playing in the 30-and-over men’s division, the Wesmen (9-2-3) proved victorious over competition much more spry, on the way to a 3-1 win over Internazionale FC in the championship final.
Taber police chief Graham Abela (left defence), along with Constables Dave Gyepesi (striker) and Jason Vowles (centre defence) helped the Wesmen to the championship.
“For the last five years, we have been playing for this team and have been pretty successful. This year, we went undefeated in our last six games,” said Abela. “We are very proud of the wins, because statistically within the division, we are old. If you take the average age of all the players, we definitely have the grey hairs playing.”
Perhaps being able to parlay the championship victory into advertising campaigns for Just For Men for members of the Wesmen squad, Abela showed the age of the four-man defensive core of the Wesmen in its two mid-defenders and two outside defenders. The ages of the defenders are 46, 44, 50, and 54 years olds.
“We have 194 years of experience across our back line,” said Abela with a chuckle, adding Taberite Travis Nishida also played on the team. “That’s how we are feeling, we are keeping up with the young whipper snappers. They seem to keep getting younger while we seem to keep getting older.”
For the last five years, the Wesmen have won the championship or been within the top three in the standings.
“We have a team that works really well together, we pass really well together, we know where everyone is going to be. Because of that, with wisdom and quick passes comes the ability to beat raw talent and speed,” said Abela. “Soccer is a positional game, with 11 of you on the field at once. Each of you have a role play and a portion of the field you have to stay in and cover. As long as you mark your opponent well, and not give them much room to maneuver around you, age doesn’t matter.”
Although tongue-in-cheek at times given the relative old-folks home age the Wesmen are in comparison to their opposition, Abela did stress how it shows soccer can be a game people can enjoy throughout their life span.
“Soccer is a sport you can play for life. It’s not something that has to stop once you are 18 years old and out of high school. In Taber we don’t have an adult league, but I think we could. We have enough former soccer players and people currently, we could do an ad hoc or throw in a couple of teams into the Lethbridge league,” said Abela. “We did used to have the Whitecaps. Actually, one of the players that coached me when I was a kid, Andre Vandebeek now plays with me on this team.”