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

WATCH: Soon-to-be guide dogs take part in the Amazing Puppy Race

10 puppies training to be guide dogs took part in a social Easter egg hunt

Ancient microbes discovered off the Juan de Fuca Ridge potentially offers glimpse into alien life

The marine bacteria is dependent on hydrogen, a compound present almost everywhere

Sign forbidding rabbit drop-offs gets stuffed bunnies instead

Residents seemingly undeterred by strict wording this Easter

Islander finding her calling in fledgling community paramedic program

Georgia Nelson’s work in Chemainus part of a new wave of small community health care delivery

BC Boat show sails into Sidney

200 vessels are expected May 2 to 5 at Port Sidney Marina

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Electronic music repels mosquitoes

New study finds Skrillex music slows mosquito’s feeding and sex

Number of ancient humans continues to grow after discovery

Scientists identify at least 12 species outside of Homo sapians following discovery in Philippines

Campbell River RCMP say alcohol and speed may be factors in collision

Woman injured after driver ran into her car on Highway 19A, says fire captain

Island MP demands return of lifeguards at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns says Lovekin Rock between Tofino and Ucluelet is a hazardous spot

Party with extreme views on immigration running on Vancouver Island

Opposing candidate says National Citizens Alliance’s participation ‘highly problematic’

Ex-mayor of northern village claims its drivers are overpaying ICBC $1,800 a year

Darcy Repen says data shows Telkwa households are being ripped off for car insurance

Deadly synthetic drug found in Kamloops that puts users in ‘zombielike’ state

Interior Health warning says substance causes ‘speedy, trippy-like symptoms’ and hallucinations

Most Read