Nanaimo United was able to accomplish a feat they’ve never done before – repeat as Jackson Cup champions.
Nanaimo United FC’s Div. 1 men won the Vancouver Island Soccer League championship on Saturday, March 26, in Langford, defeating Bays United 2-1 in extra time.
Nanaimo led 1-0 on an early goal from Colin Jacques, but Bays tied it in the second half. It took until almost the very end of overtime – the 118th minute – before Alex Dedame struck home Taylor Arbour’s pass for the go-ahead goal. Keeper Geoff Hackett was called upon for one more save in the dying moments and then the final whistles sounded.
“It was a battle. We really needed our togetherness,” said Kevin Lindo, the team’s coach.
His team expected a test against Bays, a well-coached side with talented players who work hard. A tough opponent plus the nerves of a championship game made things challenging in the final.
“I think the occasion kind of took over and we didn’t play the positive, free-flowing soccer that we wanted to, but we were able to execute some of the game plan off the ball and then it was just down to the will and desire of the guys,” Lindo said.
Nanaimo United’s Div. 1 men had already shown their determination in reaching the final. They finished in second place in league play but the cup draw did them no favours.
“The run to the cup has been very difficult, probably one of our hardest,” Lindo said. “We haven’t had any home [matches], it’s all been down in Victoria and every one of them’s been an absolute battle, down to the wire.”
Nanaimo also won the Jackson Cup in 2019-20, then the 2020-21 season was wiped out due to COVID-19. Lindo said the squad has enough veterans to know that winning one Vancouver Island championship is rare and special, let alone two straight.
“A number of guys have been with the team, some of them playing anywhere between 10 and 20 years,” the coach said. “We have a core group of guys who have been doing it and that’s quite unique.”
But there’s young talent, too, such as the rookie and cup hero Dedame. What’s more, Nanaimo United’s U21 side won the VISL’s George Smith Cup U21 championship earlier in the day on Saturday in Langford with a 4-3 win against Lakehill FC.
“The future is very bright for Nanaimo,” Lindo said.