Soccer master MacIver returns to action

Bill MacIver answered a few questions about his own soccer future Sunday afternoon at North Cariboo Field.

The 62-year-old midfielder returned to the sport he loves for the first time in nearly two years since a freak accident left him with a serious facial injury. He took his usual place in the Kason Kickers' lineup to play the Mr. Quick Gunners, the defending champions of the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League's 45-and-older Masters Division, in a 50-minute game in the league icebreaker tournament.

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The Gunners won 1-0 on an early goal from Ciro Cacares, but on this day, the score didn't matter much to the guys on the field. MacIver wasn't sure how his conditioning would hold up under the heat of brilliant sunshine Sunday afternoon but after playing squash through the winter months and getting on the roads early this year with his bike, he had no trouble keeping up with the play and was encouraged with his progress.

MacIver is considering signing up for an eight-game membership to return to the league and is also thinking about playing with the North Cariboo's 50-and-older seven-a-side group, which meets for drop-in games Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m.

MacIver got hurt playing a league game two summers ago when he and another player collided and fell to the turf. As his opponent lost his balance and hit the ground falling sideways, MacIver tumbled forward headfirst just as the other player's foot came up. The heel of his boot caught him on his cheek, shattering his cheek and eye socket.

MacIver broke several bones in his sinus cavity and his eye socket was replaced by a plastic plate. He underwent surgery at UHNBC and his plastic surgeon, Dr. Kristian Malpass, was able to make the necessary repairs under his skin of his face without leaving a single scar.

"I asked him if I could play soccer again and he said, 'Yeah, but if you get wrecked up again I'm going to have to fix you again,'" said MacIver

The accident happened a year after MacIver broke his leg playing soccer. That happened in a tournament in Vernon when he got tackled from behind along the sidelines on the last play of the game. At the time, he didn't get the leg X-rayed but returned to the field a few weeks later and the same leg took the brunt of another collision when an opponent rolled over the ball. An X-ray revealed a broken bone and his doctor showed him his leg was broken in another place from the incident six weeks earlier.

"It's all about the grass and the sunshine and it's such a great sport - I probably will sign up," said MacIver. "This was sort of the test for it. I felt pretty good running around - I mean I don't feel I'm in good shape, but I felt OK."

MacIver and Jim Elson, 55, are the longest-serving members of the Kickers team. Elson was feeling it Sunday after the game.

"It's getting harder," said Elson. "I wouldn't mind if we went to 35-minute halves or even 30-minute halves - 45-minute halves are just a bit too long. I'm at the point now where I can get out and run around and I don't have to get the ambulance to take me home. It's all good. When you can come out and have a laugh and get some exercise, it's a real bonus."

Kickers goalie Rory Wing was on his game Sunday afternoon, denying the Gunners on several breakaway attempts. At the other end of the field, Kickers forward Cliff Raphael just missed a glorious chance to tie the game late in the second half, staring at an open net while standing next to the post on a corner kick. Just before the three-minute warning, Kickers player Kam Mehrassa was fed in front by his brother John but booted the ball over the net, much to the relief of ever-young Gunners goalie Terry Carter, 74, who earned the shutout.

Gunners veteran midfielder Craig Christie, the league MVP last year, knows the other 45-plus teams will do what they can to dethrone the defending champions and he's looking forward to the start of the season.

"This is my get-in-shape tournament, I just love playing," said the 52-year-old Christie. "I can't get enough of it. Getting later on in life, the more you can play the better. If you stay stretched and stay hydrated you can have longevity in this league. There's no real hard tackles. Some guys play a little bit aggressive, but other than that it's not bad."

The four 45-and-older teams are allowed to use as many as three underaged players as long as they are over 40 and the Gunners have added Cacares, Rob Reid and Rod Robinson to fill those spots. Cacares, 43, played with many of the current Gunners, starting when he was 17 when they played in Division 1 for Labatts/Honda North. The Gunners also have a new addition from Williams Lake to lay down the law in the defensive zone.

"We've got a good group of guys this year - we lost a few guys but we picked up three or four pretty quality guys," said Christie. "Warren Brown is the police chief in town here and he was right what we needed, a centreback. We've been lacking in that department since Brian Beale left."

The Caledonians play Subway on Thursday to open play in the 45-and-older Division.

The Prince George Women's Soccer Association also had its icebreaker tournament on the weekend. The regular season started on Monday for the women with three games.

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