Cowichan kids headed to the World Cup

Regardless of how Canada fares in the Women’s World Cup, soccer fans from the Cowichan Valley will have reasons to tune in and watch the final.

Three Cowichan Valley Soccer Association players – 10-year-olds Kennedy Aleck and Kaylynn Rowlings, and sixyear-old Rowan Picard – have won the honour of escorting the finalists onto the pitch at BC Place for the championship game on July 5. "We get to go on the field and watch from the sidelines," an enthusiastic Picard said.

The player escorts’ duties are pretty clear: they get to walk hand-in-hand with the players onto the pitch, and stand alongside them during the national anthems.

"I have watched a YouTube video about it," said Aleck, who admitted she has a bit of anxiety about being in front of the massive stadium crowd.

A training event this Saturday, the same day Canada opens the tournament against China, should help put some of those nerves at ease.

Fifty soccer clubs and associations from across Canada, including eight from B.C., got the honour of providing player escorts, flag bearers and ball crew for World Cup games. The honour of providing player escorts for the final fell to the Lower Island Soccer Association, who picked players from their member clubs. There are close to 8,000 players registered with LISA, including nearly 200 girls between the ages of six and 10, the requirement for player escorts. They also have to be under 140 centimetres tall, lest they tower over any of the smaller international players.

Twenty-two player escorts were picked at random from all of the eligible players in LISA. Although the number of Island players on the turf could be higher if Canada reaches the final.

"Twenty-three if you count Emily Zurrer," LISA executive director Karen Hood-Deshon noted.