North Shore soccer tourney to honour First Nations pioneer

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      An inaugural soccer tournament to be held tomorrow (Saturday, October 17) will commemorate the legacy of a First Nations pioneer in the sport.

      The Harry Manson Legacy tournament, which will get underway at the John Braithwaite Community Centre in North Vancouver at 1 p.m., will feature four coed teams playing five per side in abbreviated 24-minute games.

      Two teams from the Street Soccer League will take part (one affiliated with the North Shore Salvation Army and another with the Downtown Eastside's Portland Hotel Society), as well as a unit from the Native Education College. A team organized through the auspices of the City of Vancouver, possibly containing two great-grandchildren of Harry Manson's, is also scheduled to compete.

      The intent of the competition, as stated by founding organization Friends of Harry Manson and cofounder Robert Janning in a release, is to "redress the legacy of colonialism in British Columbia" and "to honour the outstanding First Nations sportsman" Harry Manson.

      "We hope this tournament will contribute to breaking down the last remaining barriers that continue, in very subtle ways, to segregate the First Nations of British Columbia from the wider provincial soccer community," the release stated.

      Manson, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island at the turn of the past century, was the captain of the indigenous Nanaimo Indian Wanderers soccer team from 1897 to 1908. He was also the only player, regardless of race, to play for the Wanderers and both the Nanaimo Thistles and Nanaimo United during those years.

      Harry Manson, second from right, bottom row, 1903 photo.

      During the time period that Manson played, open discrimination and racism against aboriginal people was common in B.C. Despite reported calls to "Kill the savages" yelled out during matches between his First Nations team and those comprised of players of European descent, Manson was widely recognized for his skill on the soccer pitch.

      Largely through the efforts of B.C. soccer researcher Janning—who has written a history of provincial soccer, Westcoast Reign: The British Columbia Soccer Championships 1892-1905—Manson became inducted into three separate sports halls of fame in Canada within seven months in 2014 and 2015: the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame, the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame, and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

      The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame has not inducted Manson despite two applications.

      Teams in the Harry Manson Legacy tournament will be competing for the historic Grand Challenge Cup of the Nanaimo Football Association, a trophy originally commissioned in 1891, which makes it one year older than the revered Stanley Cup. Manson won the cup as a member of Nanaimo United in 1903; he was one of three indigenous players on that team, and they were the first to win a provincial championship.

      "And everybody gets a medal," Janning told the Straight by phone of the tournament's participants.

      "I think that the example Harry Manson set during that period of racism...was that he kind of ignored all that. He just went out and played soccer. He didn't care if he was playing with white people or indigenous people."

      Manson, whose Snuneymuxw name was Xul-si-malt (meaning "One who leaves his mark"), died in a trainyard accident in Nanaimo in 1912, age 32, while in town to get medicine for his sick child.

      All are welcome to attend and watch the tournament on Saturday. The final game is scheduled for 3:45 p.m., with the awards presentation taking place immediately afterward.

      The John Braithwaite Community Centre is located at 145 West 1st Street, North Vancouver.