Hope’s Valley Choppers have kicked off their eighth season in the Chilliwack men’s soccer league, picking up at least five new players.
Last year, the club was helped by a visiting Spanish exchange teacher, Javier Sanchez, who led the team in scoring until he went back home in November.
This season, two South Americans have joined the Choppers. Derek Lecaros and Tomas Chichoni are in Chilliwack as high school students for the year, sponsored by Rotary International. Lecaros is from Peru and Chichoni from Argentina.
Chichoni took quite a beating from rough and sloppy tackles in his first two games on Canadian soil — even getting punched twice — but he also got the first goal of the season for the team, which had a 2-2 half-time tie against Kenroc, before eventually losing 4-2.
“I am from Olavarria City, in Buenos Aires province,” said Chichoni, age 17. “In Argentina, I play volleyball on a team. I play football… soccer only with my friends on a small field, five-on-five.”
Coming from totally Spanish-speaking communities, Chichoni and Lecaros have done remarkably well at fitting in with the Choppers.
“I have learned English in Grade 10 and 11,” said Chichoni. “And I go to the institute after school to study English, for three hours a week.
“I wanted to come on the exchange to learn about more cultures,” added the Argentine. “It is a good experience for my life.”
Zane MacDonald, one of only three Choppers still on the roster from the inaugural year, was chosen as team captain in a post-game ballot last Saturday.
“I talk the most and I’m the loudest, so I figured I’d put my name in,” said MacDonald, jokingly. “I think I was captain on my novice hockey team… so it’s been a while.”
Speaking of the Choppers, MacDonald said, “We have a good core group of returning people and the new players should help.
“Our challenge is a lack of deep background in the game. We’re kind of green. The 4-2 loss against Kenroc was a good sign, though. It wasn’t 8-0 or 9-0 like it has been in the past. Scoring has always been a problem for us.”
After Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the perennial league-leading Young Guns, the Choppers’ keeper, Kyle Kjemhus posted his thoughts on the club’s Facebook page.
“I’ve been on this team since the current iteration was established eight years ago. During that time, we haven’t had a lot of success. We had a couple of years where we were in the middle of the pack but most years we were in the bottom third of the standings.
“Those of us who’ve been around a while have seen all kinds of different losses. In my opinion, there is only one kind of loss that is unacceptable: a loss in which the team gives up or gets outworked by the opposition.
“We have had three games so far this year and, yes, all of them were losses… but they were the right kind of losses. Losses where we battled until the end; losses where we learned from our mistakes; losses where we picked our teammates up instead of knocking them down.
“If we continue to put in the effort that we put in today, and play a team-first game, we will see results. Keep those heads up, stay hungry and confident, we’ll get ours soon enough.”
Next up for the Choppers is Old Settler, this Saturday (Sept. 20) at 2 p.m. on the upper Tzeachten field on Bailey Road in Chilliwack. For scores and schedules, the league’s web address is http://www.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=chwkmsl&sid=38879664