This month, the people who have been meeting to play soccer on a recreational basis in Kamsack are celebrating their group’s 32nd anniversary.
“I came to Kamsack in September 32 years ago and we formed a recreational soccer group later the same month,” Stephen Ruten said last week, explaining that during the summer, since assemblies were permitted in June, the group, which averages about 20, has been meeting Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons on the grounds of the Victoria School in Kamsack.
“It’s all recreational,” Ruten said. “Sid Novitski divides everyone into groups that can play each other. We compete, but we always part as friends.”
The soccer games are open to all and include players as young as six or seven years of age and are currently as old as the late 60s, he said. “We especially appreciate the international flavour of the group which has attracted new residents to the community who have come from other parts of the world.”
Because of the restrictions to guard against COVID-19, rules of the game have been altered, he said. For example, there is no use of the hands, goalies use gloves and physical distancing is observed.
A total of 20 persons attended the games on September 11, Ruten said. A couple times this summer, a total of six RCMP members in full work gear, on-the-job, participated.
“(This shows) good community involvement,” he said. “One RCMP officer also showed up briefly one evening just to drop off a couple of soccer balls that he wanted to donate ‘for the cause,’ as he put it. That kindness was appreciated.”
Soccer is the only sport I grew up with in West Africa, he said. “When I came to Canada, I played soccer in Quill Lake, both indoors and out, and then started this group when I came to Kamsack in September 1988.
“We had the most players in the mid-1990s when for about two months we had about 50 players meeting at the Kamsack Comprehensive Institute gymnasium,” he said, adding that often after hockey was done they’ve had a fresh influx of players.
“Over the 32 years, we’ve had an average of 20 to 23 players attend; there were more once the games were moved into the gymnasium, and then fewer in the summer because “there’s much more running outdoors,” he said. “I told the players that while in a gym, if you stood in one place, the ball will come to you about once or twice a minute.
“We’ve had a variety of players over time, including, an RCMP staff sergeant, doctors and a doctor’s wife.”
Among the current members of the group who, along with Ruten, have been involved the longest are Sid Novitski, Greg Leis and Warren Andrews.
The late Daya Kaushik and his five grandchildren were the core of the group from the beginning, he said. Daya began when he was 65 years old and played until he was 88.
Ruten said that the two best female players he has played with in Kamsack were Sheila Kaushik, a granddaughter of Daya, and Carla Kazakoff, who played in the 1990s.
“We’ve been playing for fun for 32 years, and we’ve never charged anyone a penny, if you remember what a penny is,” he said. “The guys chipped in for a new ball occasionally and the recreation board has provided balls for us.”
Over this time, although there have been a few minor bruises, there has never been a significant injury, he said.
Asked what the group plans to do once winter arrives and the school no longer permits use of the gymnasium, Ruten said, not entirely joking, that if any district farmer has a large shed or old barn that could accommodate the group, he or she would get a big thank you from the regular soccer players. Normally, by October, the players would begin regular sessions in the gym.
“We’ll continue playing outside until it gets too cold,” he said.