Robert Janning, left, holds the Grand Challenge Cup with Gary Manson while standing in front of a newly installed sign honouring Manson’s grandfather, Harry Manson, at Deverill Square Park on Dec. 18. The sign was installed by the provincial government and pays tribute to Manson’s grandfather, a pioneering Snuneymuxw soccer player during the early 20th century. The sign also honours the first ever soccer game played between Snuneymuxw players and European settlers in British Columbia. The game took place on Nov. 12, 1892 at Deverill Square Park. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN).

Pioneering Snuneymuxw soccer star honoured at Nanaimo park

Harry Manson played on Nanaimo soccer teams featuring mostly white men during the early 20th century

A trailblazing Snuneymuxw soccer player and an historic soccer match have been forever memorialized at Nanaimo’s Deverill Square Park by the British Columbia government.

Leonard Krog, Nanaimo’s MLA, unveiled a sign honouring an 1892 match between Snuneymuxw players and European settlers and Harry Manson, a pioneering Snuneymuxw soccer player in the early 20th century.

“[Manson] should be a real hero to all of you,” Krog told the crowd during a ceremony that also included songs and speeches from Snuneymuxw elders as well as members of the Manson family.

On Nov. 12 1892, a group of Snuneymuxw soccer players faced off at Deverill Square Park against the YMCA Juniors in what became the first organized soccer match between an all-aboriginal team and an all-European settlers team while Harry Manson, who was also known by his traditional name, Xul-si-malt, was a trailblazing soccer player on Vancouver Island in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Krog said he hopes he hopes the sign inspires young people of all ethnic backgrounds that anything is possible and that the sign is a “tangible” act of reconciliation.

“What I hope this will do in this community is remind everybody what an incredible achievement Mr. Manson’s life was,” Krog said. “He grew up in a time when colonization had essentially tried, and succeeded in too many cases, to take everything from the First Nations of this country. Their land, their culture, their beliefs, everything. They denied them every possibility.”

Doug White II, Snuneymuxw’s acting chief, told a crowd that included local politicians and members of Nanaimo United that the ceremony is a historic moment for his people and the community as a whole.

“We are very honored, chief and council, that this has taken place today,” he said.

Manson’s skills earned him playing time with Nanaimo Thistles and other teams during a deeply racist era. Manson, along with Louis Martin, became the first two First Nations player to ever win a provincial championship. Although Manson died in 1912 after being hit by a train, it was only within the last decade he was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame.

The ceremony might have never happened if it weren’t for Robert Janning, the author of Westcoast Reign: The British Columbia Soccer Championships 1892-1905, a book released in 2012 that documents the history of soccer in the province and includes information about Manson’s life as an athlete. Janning has been pushing and promoting Manson’s story for years.

Speaking to the News Bulletin afterwards, Gary Manson, the grandson of Harry Manson, told the News Bulletin that if it weren’t for Janning, there is a good chance his grandfather’s story would have never been discovered. He said growing up, he played soccer at Deverill Square Park and had heard stories about his grandfather, but knew very little.

“We knew that he played soccer but not to that extent. When my father died, he died with him. We were at a loss,” he said.

Janning, who wrote his book while recovering from years of drug and alcohol abuse, said it was Manson’s resilience and ability to deal with discrimination that touched him in a deeply personal way.

“My own personal struggles, my immigration, my sexual orientation, growing up in a bigoted environment and becoming bigoted myself, I know what it is like to be picked on,” Janning said. “I knew the pain of being discriminated against and it touched my heart.”


nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook or follow Nicholas Pescod on Twitter

Just Posted

Third elephant seal moults on Gonzales Beach

Victoria City staff were out Monday morning shifting pylons to protect an… Continue reading

Remains of two people found in Ucluelet

Officials have not said whether or not the remains belong to Ryan Daley or Dan Archbald

Suman, mom of Reena Virk, has died

Mother of 1997 murder victim became an activist against bullying

First Vancouver Island heat wave of the summer is here

Environment Canada issues a special weather statement as temperatures creep into the 30s

Does a creature lurk beneath Caddy Bay?

Researchers on hunt for Cadborosaurus, with sightings dating back centuries along the B.C. coast

Canada won’t ‘play politics’ on U.S. migrant children policy

The U.S. government is under fire over its ”zero tolerance” policy

Late goal gives England 2-1 win over Tunisia

At the last World Cup in 2014, England couldn’t even win a game

Canadian military police officer pleads not guilty to sex assault

Sgt. Kevin MacIntyre, 48, entered his plea today at a court martial proceeding in Halifax

CRD tightens leash on dog walkers

Five regional parks in Sooke now have new restrictions on dogs

North Island College gets $328,000 for forestry education funding

Announcement in Campbell River part of $1 million around B.C.

Body discovered in Port Alberni building

RCMP turn investigation over to BC Coroner’s office

Cheers erupt as Federal Court judge approves historic gay purge settlement

Gay military veterans said they were interrogated, harassed and spied on because of their sexuality

Helping B.C.’s helpers cope

The MRT has helped almost 7,000 first responders and street workers in 57 communities in B.C.

Most Read