The teams paraded onto the turf at Westview secondary behind their respective country’s flags, formed lines, and stood for their national anthems – the Mexican players with one arm across their chest in a kind of salute.
It was a bit of pomp to mark the occasion of the Third Annual International Soccer Tournament at Westview.
After the host Mexicans shot a flaming arrow to ignite a cauldron a couple of years back, the Westview organizers decided they needed to up their game a little.
The annual exchange has happened for seven years, and three years ago the Westview staff expanded their competition from exhibition games to a full-on tournament.
Westview coach Craig Draper is happy with his junior side, which has gone 2-1 in their tournament. They opened the tournament with a 3-1 win over Khalsa private school of Surrey, then lost a close game with Archbishop Carney 2-1.
Westview was led by centre midfielder Seth Injates, who anchors his team, and dynamic striker Gentra Shiroki, who scored three of his team’s first four games.
“He’s the best 14-year-old soccer athlete I’ve ever seen,” said Draper of Shiroki, a Japanese exchange student. “He can take on two or three defenders. He has an amazing bag of tricks.”
Thursday morning they matched up against the visiting Mexican side, and won 2-1. With the two schools having played each other every year in the annual exchange, a friendly rivalry has emerged.
Dennis Schmidt organized the event, with help from the district’s international education department. He has eight boys teams and six girls.
“I have a lineup of schools that would like to participate,” he said. “The kids want to be on the field with the Mexicans – it’s the international flaire.
“It’s two cultures colliding on a soccer field, and the Mexican players are passionate about it.”
The Mexican girls teams were sobbing after their loss to Westview. Their coach Cesar Garcia said his girls are not used to playing in Canadian cold.
“They really enjoy the home stay – win or lose, it doesn’t matter,” said Fabiola Ojeda, the principal of Tepeyac Puerto Vallarta, the private school that sent the delegation of 30 students and six adults on the exchange.
The students are all billeted with Maple Ridge families.
“It’s a really nice experience for them.”
Schmidt said the exchange is a highlight for the Westview kids as well.
“This is what kids remember about their high school experiences – it’s these mountaintop moments.”