By Ottawa Sportspage, For Ottawa TFC Soccer Club
The under-13 boys’ and girls’ soccer teams from Rimouski, Que. shone under the big city lights at the first Ottawa TFC Capital Cup Tournament & Festival on June 22-23 in Orleans.
Rimouski edged the host OTFC sides in 2 of the 3 division championship games broadcast on Rogers TV from Millennium Park Stadium and pocketed gold medals to brighten their long trip back home.
“Not many parents could come with them, they were kind of on their own at 12 or 13 years old, travelling 8 hours away, and they won it all,” recounts OTFC tournament director Polina Onyalo. “Honestly, as much as you wanted your home team to win, it was so nice. You had to be happy for them.”
Despite missing out on tournament titles, OTFC nonetheless performed well in tournament play. In U13 girls’ and boys’ play, it was a strikingly similar experience for the host club’s entries.
OTFC had a team play in both finals and another reach the semi-finals – all four squads recording nothing but wins in every game except for 1-goal defeats to Rimouski. OTFC also earned silver medals in the U15 & U16 boys’ competitions.
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“To have our own teams play in our tournament and represent the club so well is amazing,” signals Onyalo, noting that an “all-star” side of players from the club’s recreational programs even entered the competitive tourney. “We have so many different levels of soccer in our club. For all levels to really have the opportunity to put on a show and compete is great.”
The event had strong representation from Quebec – a product of OTFC building relationships with many clubs from their neighbouring province by attending their competitions and scheduling wintertime friendlies.
In total, the Capital Cup featured 22 divisions from the U9 through U16 girls’ and boys’ age groups for its inaugural edition (OTFC’s merged Cumberland and Capital United clubs operated Snakebite and Mini World Cup events in past years). Over 150 teams participated overall – believed to be the Eastern Ontario region’s biggest tournament/festival on a single weekend.
“It went really well. It was beyond our expectations,” says Onyalo, noting extras helped build a fun atmosphere like Jump 106.9 pounding out music at the primary Millennium Sports Park venue, and the BBQ roaring there and at the François-Dupuis Recreation Centre secondary site.
The festivities took over 12 locations across the east end from 9-3 both Saturday and Sunday. It took a team of roughly 40 to run the event, including volunteers, club staff, directors, students and OTFC Academy players, plus all the match officials working under OTFC head referee Mark Magee.
“It’s a really nice group effort that comes together,” underlines Onyalo, who played for the Cumberland Cobras herself in the past.
The work to organize the event begins in January for the former University of Windsor Lancers defender. Just a handful of the tasks include creating applications, drafting rules/directives for both the U9-12 festivals and U13-16 tournament, managing the online registration platform, booking fields and creating schedules, inviting media and special guests, planning food, organizing volunteers, distributing equipment and ensuring there are adequate nets and tents.
“It’s so much preparing, so when you actually get out there and see kids playing, it’s really something else,” Onyalo indicates. “It was a lot of fun and we’re looking forward to next year already.”