Magnuson Ford Mariners FC is kicking off a new chapter in its history with a 24-hour soccer marathon this weekend.
Abbotsford’s minor soccer association is hosting the event in conjunction with the CBC’s Sports Day in Canada, and it runs from 6 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Saturday at DeLair Park.
Youth teams will be on the pitch on Friday evening and Saturday during the day, and adult teams will carry on the marathon overnight. There will be a winner – a cumulative score will be kept.
“At the end of the process, it might be 326 for the red team and 412 for the blue,” Ian Knight, the Mariners’ technical director, noted with a chuckle. “We’re just trying to create a fun, relaxed community event that’s in celebration of sport and the game of soccer.”
The marathon includes a celebrity game from 12-1 p.m. on Saturday, featuring Abbotsford native and Olympic bronze soccer medalist Sophie Schmidt, along with local police, fire and border services officers.
Twisters Gymnastics Club, which partners with the soccer association in delivering programs to the U5, U6 and U7 age groups, will also be involved.
Spectators are welcome, and organizers are inviting people to bring a donation for the Abbotsford Food Bank.
The soccer marathon launches a pair of new Mariners partnerships with the B.C. Blind Sports and Recreation Association and the Abbotsford chapter of Special Olympics BC.
Knight and other Mariners coaches are going to be delivering soccer sessions across the province on behalf of B.C. Blind Sports, and developing a training template which can be passed along to provincial organizations across the nation.
Soccer, adapted for visually impaired individuals, is played five-a-side on a reduced-sized field surrounded by boards. The goalkeepers are sighted, and they give direction to the players. The game is played with a noise-making ball to help the players track it.
Blind soccer is a Paralympic sport, but Canada doesn’t currently have a national program. The hope is that the Mariners’ work will pave the way for Canada to one day send a team to the Paralympics.
It’s certainly heady stuff for a local soccer club.
“We’ve reached out to other countries that do have blind soccer programming, just to receive some guidance from them on how they do things,” Knight said. “It’s an exciting project, for sure.”
The Mariners are also assisting the local Special Olympics group with soccer coaching education and camps.
“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to reach out to these other agencies, and give the club a bigger standing in the community, if you will,” Knight said.