After over a decade away, the coveted and elusive Pakenham Cup is returning to its hometown of Mission on April 2.
The cup – the second oldest amateur sporting cup in Canada, and the oldest still in competition – is awarded to the champions of the Fraser Valley Soccer League’s (FVSL) adult Division 1 League.
“It’s pretty exciting … I know what it means to the Mission Soccer Club (MSC),” said Dan Hill, who runs MSC’s Division 2 team.
“The Pakenham Cup is supposed to be played here every year … and it’s not been here in a while.”
The original sterling silver cup was donated to a Fraser Valley league in 1909 by Fred Pakenham. It was one of the Pakenham family’s most prized possessions – dating back to the 1700s when it was gifted to the family by King George III of England.
Mission City was selected as the location where the finals would take place each year, but that’s not been the case for many decades. The last time the finals occurred in Mission was 2009.
READ: Bring the cup home
In fact, disputed ownership claims over the years, coupled with a history of disappearing for decades has left the FVSL extremely protective of the cup.
“The stories with this trophy never end,” Mills said, noting they’ve added more security recently, and it remains locked and chained until the finals.
“We don’t want to let anybody near it, nobody gets to take it anywhere and it comes out once a year,” he said. “We are very, very strict. It doesn’t leave our sight.”
Mills said the league used to be much more relaxed about teams celebrating with the cup, and there are even old photographs of it in Vancouver bars like The Roxy.
But the league has good reasons for its current attitudes. In the 113-years of Pakenham Cup competitions, it has been missing for 32 years.
It disappeared after the 1927 season and was found 21 years later in a second-hand store. It vanished again in 1965 after the FVSL was formed, and the cup winners from Port Coquitlam refused to join. They stated later, suspiciously, that the cup had been stolen out of its display case by vandals. It was reportedly found in a closet in 1972, and returned.
The league used to let teams take it to their dressing room, but seven years ago, a player tried to run away with it and league members had to chase them, according to Mills. He said the cup was dropped and the player was billed $1,500 in repairs.
“Somebody tried to steal it thinking they were funny. They’d had maybe one too many pops,” Mills said. “On April 2, if your team wins the trophy, you get it for less than five minutes.”
Then in 2016, a Mission group led by a former city councilor petitioned to have the cup returned to the city so it could be put on display.
The FVSL refused.
Mills said the league was even threatened with legal action, and they had to hide the cup. He said apart from a couple letters over his 15 year with the league, there’s been no real dispute.
“They’ve got no claim to the trophy. They don’t have a document that says it belongs to them. We do,” Mills said.
He said the FVSL’s relationship with the city has been much more positive recently, and credits MSC for building the bridge.
“There’s a stronger club now,” Mills said. “We have a relationship with these people, which in turn gives you a comfort zone … We’re certainly open to sharing the pleasures of this trophy.”
But hosting the cup in Mission every year is just not feasible, as every team wants a chance to host the finals, Mills said.
He said it’s possible for the finals to return to Mission more frequently, however, since Mission Sports Park’s facilities have been significantly improved.
Food trucks and a beer garden will be present at the games on April 2.