COQUITLAM—St. Clare’s Cardinals have emerged as Third Division champions in the B.C. Christian Soccer League.
The parish team from Coquitlam brought home the championship cup after a 4-2 victory in the final game against North Shore Alliance Church July 6 at Burnaby Lakes Sports Complex.
The St. Clare’s soccer team has experienced ups and downs since it was founded in 2012. But this year, they made it to the playoffs and brought home the championship cup for the first time.
Co-managers and coaches Andrew Buddle and Matt Maddalozzo had many goals in mind when they created the team in 2012, but one stood out the most: to strengthen a Catholic community bond.
“It was about building community and bringing (together) guys with different levels of faith,” said Maddalozzo.
Buddle and Maddalozzo recruited players from other parishes to play for the St. Clare’s team. In the past, the team also accepted “witness players," or players who do not attend Mass “but are of good character and support the ideals of the league.”
Some of those witness players have come back to the Church, a “proud achievement” for Maddalozzo and Buddle.
Aside from managing and coaching the team, Buddle and Maddalozzo are also passionate soccer players. Buddle plays as right and left defensive back while Maddalozzo plays as centre back. In all, the team includes about 20 committed players aged 19 to mid-fifties.
The Cardinals is an all-men’s team, but in previous years, there was a mix of both men and women.
“Soccer is a way to connect beyond Mass. If we are on an island on our own, then I don't think we grow,” said Maddalozzo.
Because soccer promotes team bonding, Buddle and Maddalozzo find the game helps younger players overcome hardships and discover the meaning of their faith.
Before games, the competing teams gather mid-field and the home team leads the prayer. The whole match and the Christian league offer bonding experiences and friendly competition between church communities.
The Cardinals receive support from their families and their church, often in the form of prayer. Buddle appreciates the support of Father Craig Scott, the pastor at St. Clare of Assisi.
“Having a supportive priest like Father Scott helped us feel we are on the right path,” said Buddle.
The Cardinals practise once every few weeks beginning in March, and the season runs from April to late June or early July.
Both Buddle and Maddalozzo hope they can keep playing until they can pass the torch to future generations of players. “I'm just hoping my legs are still going when my boys are ready to play,” said Maddalozzo.