When Tricia Martin and Kelly Megyesi played select soccer together in Ontario about four decades ago, they were breaking new ground.
But neither expected they’d be blazing trails together in their fifties.
The women met as teens playing on a competitive-level girls soccer team in Toronto, the first of its kind.
Megyesi, who now lives in Vernon, recounts how her three brothers all played soccer and her mom thought she should have the same opportunity.
A four-team league was formed around 1971, possibly the first girls’ league in Canada, she thinks.
The next year more teams were formed and, in the third year, a competitive level was added.
“In Toronto in boys, there was house and competitive. It took us two seasons to get to that,” she says.
She and Martin, an avid soccer player and now-retired high school PE teacher in Salmon Arm, played together on a team in the newly formed competitive league. The world of travelling to play opened up to them.
“It was one of those weird things, because we were a new thing, we got to travel so we got to know each other fairly well. I remember her mom, as we went to the States a couple of times on a big charter bus,” says Martin.
Along with travelling to various states, the team played in Mexico and in a big tournament in Toronto.
Their team represented Scarborough and Martin remembers an event called the Scarborough-Indianapolis Peace Games. It was named in honour of the peace treaty that led to the end of the Vietnam War. One year athletes would come up from Indianapolis for events and a parade, and the next year, Scarborough would go down.
Because there were no girls soccer teams from Indianapolis, they played California kick ball, a kind of soccer-baseball.
Martin didn’t come west until she went to UBC in 1985 for her teaching certificate. She played on the women’s soccer team there and, once again, the paths of the two women crossed.
“Kelly said she actually remembered seeing me at UBC because her brother played at UBC the year I did.”
When Martin moved to Salmon Arm and began playing in the North Okanagan league, she spotted Megyesi, who was playing on a Vernon team.
“I was looking at this person and saying, ‘I think I know you.’
They’ve since learned they’ve had something of a shared history. They’ve both played in world masters tournaments on different teams. They’ve both coached girls’ soccer teams over the years, giving back to the sport. Martin has also been running Girls Only Soccer in Salmon Arm for more than two decades while Megyesi has coached with Special Olympics for more than 20 years, mostly soccer.
“I think it’s amazing how far female soccer has come in a very short time,” says Martin, referring to the Canadian women’s team.
Fast forward to 2017, and along came the 55+ Games. This was to be the first year women’s soccer was offered. Women like Megyesi and Martin, who had been trailblazers back in the ’70s, were now of an age where they could participate.
Both Megyesi and Martin, along with another Vernon player, Shelly Johnston, were instrumental in making certain women’s soccer proceeded in the Games, when it looked like there might not be enough players. This inaugural year, there were eventually three teams: one from Vancouver, one from Vancouver Island and one from the Okanagan-Shuswap. The Okanagan-Shuswap squad proudly claimed silver.
“I’m happy we did it,” says Megyesi, describing it as one of soccer’s magical moments. “It’s almost like when we first started with soccer. That was four teams, this is three teams.”
She predicts it won’t be long before the women’s soccer component of the 55+ Games will become much bigger, much more competitive.
“It was just pretty special to be in the first year where we could come together as a team.”
Martin is equally pleased to have played on the team and with Megyesi.
“It’s a celebration, being lucky enough to have been involved in sports my whole life as a female. Probably my longest connections, my life-long friends, have been through sport,” she says. “Seeing someone again, doing some remembering together and playing together, I think that’s awesome.”
She adds, with a laugh: “We’re still moving and we proudly display our medals.”