Call out to 50-plus soccer players

Terry Carter is not getting any younger.

On his most recent birthday cake he counted 73 candles.

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But when it comes to soccer, the youthful exuberance that made him want start playing the game as kid in England is never far below the surface. He knows that 73-year-old body still has a few cat-like reflexes left in it and he's still limber enough to bail out his teammates on the pitch when they need the last line of defence to come up big.

This year, the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League Carter has given Carter and the rest of the old boys of soccer a league of their own. On Tuesday night, the guys in the NCSSL's first-ever 50-plus division will gather for their first games, Carter's first on an outdoor field since calling it quits in 2010. He's remained active playing the indoor game on Sundays at the Northern Sport Centre but it's not the same as digging his cleats into some real grass.

"I retired four years ago and all I've been doing is playing kickaround with the guys up at the university during the winter, and just coming down (to the clubhouse) and drinking in the summer," said Carter. "We tried in previous years to get something going for the guys who maybe don't fit into the over-45s and maybe wouldn't make it on a team, but still want to kick a ball around and had limited success.

"This year, we're going to try it again and we've already got 28 guys registered. We've got guys coming out of the woodwork who haven't played for years."

The 50-plus guys will play seven-a-side on a smaller field that's as long as a regular field is wide. There are no referees, slide tackles and behind-the-body tackles are forbidden. Out-of-bound balls will be kicked rather than thrown back in and goalies are not allowed to dribble the ball over the half-field line. All players have to be members of the league, drop-ins are not allowed.

Each player will bring a red jersey and a white jersey to the field and players will be form different teams each week. Depending on how many players show up there might be enough to have two games played simultaneously.

"We're not playing for trophies or anything," Carter said. "We just want to play the game as it should be played for us. I'm the only goalie right now, so we need some 50-year-old goalies, but we'll get over that."

The league is still accepting new players. The cost for the season is $100 for non-members and $75 for players who are NCSSL members. Walter Hanik is the granddaddy of the 50-plus league at 76 and there's one other septuagenarian, 71-year-old Julian Zanolini.

Joe Ferrante, 64, who did the legwork with Paul Bowles to form the division, missed about a year of soccer when he broke his leg and tore ankle ligaments in a game five years ago. He hasn't played soccer outdoors since his injury. That hiatus will end on Tuesday.

"That's one reason I don't want to play competitive, because I'd probably re-injure it," said Ferrante.

"It's always good to play with this group of guys. We've been playing together or against each other for years now and it's going to be a fun time. It's a great bunch of guys and we never have any problems. The more people who join up, the better it's going to get."

Midfielder Glen Thompson, 57, missed last season with an arthritic hip, his first year on the sidelines since he started soccer at age 14, and he's going to give the 50-plus division a try. Without a 50-and-over group, Thompson said the only alternative would be to join the 45-and-over crowd. That division has become even younger this year now that each team is allowed to carry three underage (at least 40-year-old) players. The change was made to address the issue of dwindling 45-and-over team rosters.

"This keeps people in the game -- the 50s thing is basically the last pasture for guys who have nowhere for them to play any more," said Thompson, who played indoor soccer over the winter. "I missed it last year. I couldn't run. It's still sore but I'm going to play with the 50s because it's seven-a-side with no tackling and it's half a field.

"It will bring guys back to be a part of the league and enjoy the environment of the clubhouse and be a part of the facility."

Tonight's inaugural game starts at 6:30 p.m.

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