Summerside - Soccer has taken Dave McKay around the world and to some of the most dangerous places, but despite being 72-years-old he won’t be hanging up his boots anytime soon.
“When I was a young lad back in Northern Ireland I joined a Saturday morning league, and then I had to stop playing there because I moved to Canada,” said McKay. “In Toronto I started playing soccer again for different leagues and I loved the game so much I never stopped playing.”
The game of soccer, more commonly referred to as “football” outside of Canada and the United States, is built around teams of 11 players moving the ball up and down the field in an attempt to score goals.
Players use their feet, knees, head and chest to control and advance the ball on the field.
As a youth, McKay kicked the ball with George Best, who went on to make his debut at 17 as a winger for Manchester United, and the Northern Ireland national team. He was named the European Footballer of the Year and was the club’s top goal scorer in the league for five consecutive seasons.
“He’s past away now, but he was a fabulous soccer player,” said McKay, who now lives in Summerside. “I played soccer with him when I was 15 and he was turning 14, but he was a genius with the ball and was quickly snapped up. He was unbelievable to watch.”
McKay said that Best and his soccer skills inspired him to continue with the sport.
“I never quit, I kept trying and practicing and got better and better. I was never a star, but I played my position well,” he said.
And McKay is still playing high-level soccer with no signs of slowing down.
“It’s great for your cardio, you’re running around using all your leg and stomach muscles, everything. I think it’s the greatest game in the world.”
His team from Toronto, West Rouge Blues, comprised of Danish, Dutch, German and Scottish men travelled around the world, from South Korea to Costa Rica, in pursuit of the game.
“We played in a seniors tournament in Bangkok, Thailand. We played in Denmark against the Danish all boys team, we played in Germany against the German all boys team, we were in Helsinki, Finland, and played against a co-ed team…” McKay said, while running off the list of countries he’s visited with a smile.
In a team called West Rouge Centennial, he travelled back and forth to the United States for 25 years, before he retired from the club at 56.
Tony De Rosario played the position of goalkeeper for the team in the United States during a tournament. His son, Dwayne, would go on to play major league soccer, and represent the Canadian national team from 1998 to 2015.
“Dwayne was such a good little player and ended up playing professional. And every once and a while I would see his dad, Tony, at one of his soccer games and I would say, ‘I know him.’ Dwayne is retired now,” said McKay.
McKay, who moved around coaching soccer for many years, now enjoys a friendly game with Black Sheep Soccer at Elm Street Elementary School in Summerside.
“It’s just a game that I love and I will keep kicking the ball as long as God lets me.”