Island girls catch excitement of World Cup final at B.C. Place

Contrary to popular belief, there were Canadian players on the field Sunday at B.C. Place Stadium in the 2015 FIFA women’s World Cup final.

The winning U.S. team wore white and runner-up Japan blue.

Another team, composed of young Vancouver Island players with equally precious memories of the day, wore yellow tops with red shorts.

Nine-year-old Sophie Mallory from Gorge FC planned to wear her kit home on the ferry Sunday night.

“It was very exciting,” said Mallory, among the 22 players from the Lower Island Soccer Association selected to hold the hands of the American and Japanese finalists as they marched onto the pitch for the championship game.

It has become a tradition in big international soccer games.

“It was so loud in there. And in front of me were a whole bunch of cameras,” added Mallory, of the final, won 5-2 by the U.S. for its first World Cup title since 1999.

Mallory walked out, in front of 53,341 fans, with U.S. player Ali Krieger.

Mallory’s recollection of her magic moment is vivid: “She said: ‘Hi, my name is Ali.’ I said: ‘Good luck.’ ”

Nine-year-old Alegria Massa from Lakehill walked onto her field of dreams holding the hand of Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori, who just moments later would face a deluge of early American goals.

“It was exciting, noisy and even a little bit scary . . . but I liked it a lot,” said Massa.

The girls range in age from six to 10 and were selected at random from the 10 Lower Island soccer associations — Lakehill, Gorge FC, Bays United, Juan de Fuca, Peninsula, Prospect Lake, Saanich Fusion, Sooke, Cowichan and Salt Spring.

The Lower Island association was selected for the honour because of its support for the World Cup from the earliest organizational stages of the event.

The Island parents, who got to go to the game with their children, were as excited as their kids Sunday.

Dad Nat Massa has won Colonist and Jackson Cups as a player and said he was impressed by how far the women’s game has evolved.

“The increase in skill level, over just the last five years, has been tremendous,” he said, following the World Cup final.

“And this atmosphere in B.C. Place was just amazing. We were surrounded by U.S. fans and this place was louder than I’ve ever heard it, especially after the first few U.S. goals.”

There were 3,126 girls among the 7,719 players registered in the Lower Island Soccer Association this past season. Youth soccer associations across Canada are expecting an increase in female registrations due to the exposure given the women’s game by hosting the World Cup in this country.

“After this, I can see there being a lot of Canadian girls interested in soccer,” said Sophie’s mom, Gillian Mallory.