Birthday celebration for a Cowichan soccer icon [photo gallery]

"Oh my god. Oh my god."

Rarely at a loss for words, Bill Keserich found himself on repeat last Saturday when the Cowichan Valley Soccer Association surprised him with a massive 80th birthday celebration fit for a man with whom the word "icon" is so frequently and appropriately affiliated.

Keserich, the longtime president of the CVSA and a major advocate in the region for sports and youth, was greeted with a soccer field lined by friends and family and filled with replicas of his familiar moustache, all signed with birthday greetings and well-wishes from near and far.

The moustaches were sponsored by community members who eagerly shelled out, with the proceeds going toward the new soccer turf at the club’s grounds on Sherman Road, planned for the very field where the moustaches were planted. More than $5,000 was raised, with additional cheques still coming in.

"Bill is a huge part of the community," said Deana Robertson, one of the key organizers of the event along with Keserich’s daughter, Michele. "He has dedicated hours to soccer and other sports. He’s an icon. It was easy to sell the moustaches."

Keserich has spent more than 30 years as CVSA president, as well as serving in other capacities, including referee and coach. He

made sure to note the roles that his wife, Wendy, and their five children have played in his career.

Among those who made a point of attending the birthday celebrations was Emily Zurrer, a member of Canada’s national women’s soccer team since 2008 and a bronze medallist in the 2012 Olympics who grew up in Crofton and got her start in the sport with the CVSA. She recalled first encountering Keserich more than 20 years ago.

"I feel like he looks the same as he did when I was six years old," she said.

Like the rest of the people in attendance, Zurrer was honoured to be part of the festivities.

"It’s great to be back in town celebrating a man who has done so much for soccer and the community," she said.

Once he recovered from the shock of the celebration, which came as a complete surprise to him, Keserich lauded the CVSA for putting on the massive celebration.

"It means that the club is truly a family organization," he said. "This is the best one could possibly hope for in a community organization."

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