Calgary’s newest professional men’s soccer franchise, Cavalry FC, held open tryouts through the month of October and team selection is expected sometime this winter — with local talent, John Wheeldon and former pro-player, Adam Zymirski looking to make the squad.
The Cavalry will become Calgary’s first professional soccer team since 2004.
The team is set to start playing this spring, with a slate of 28 games from April to October of 2019. Cavalry FC’s home field will be at Spruce Meadows equestrian facility which offers the intimate and interactive feel of a traditional English soccer stadium that will only hold five to 7,000 fans.
Ian Allison, the president and chief operating officer, who’s been with the equestrian facility since the beginning over 43 years ago, says the location is a perfect fit for soccer.
“We looked at some of our fundamental tenets at Spruce Meadows, clean, green, international, youth accessible and the beautiful game seemed to also fit,” he said during an interview in one of the press boxes overlooking one of Spruce Meadows’ show jumping arenas.
Allison said ticket prices will range from general $15 admission to $150, for those part of the “Officers Club, which will have a meal and beverages available.”
The club is offering a complimentary shuttle from the Bridlewood/Somerset LRT station for every home game. The Cavalry also paired with the Ship and Anchor to “Show Up & Ship Out” fans to and from the games via bus, something the team is looking to do with a number of soccer pubs around Calgary.
With the announcement that Canada will co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, Allison says there is a bigger aspiration to be one of the leading venues — not just in North America — but internationally.
“What we envision is people wanting to come here, the great players of the world, to play on the meadows … as a truly unique venue, against the best players in this sport — many of whom by that stage hopefully are Canadians.”
Calgary’s Soccer Guru
Tommy Wheeldon Jr., the Cavalry FC’s first head coach, comes from a soccer lineage across the pond in England. Wheeldon Jr. says he started out playing as soon as he could “have a ball at the foot.”
Wheeldon Jr. left school at 16 years of age and signed with Swindon Town of the English Football League. By 18, Wheeldon Jr. had already been with three different clubs. In 2002, weighing his options to play in Calgary, Finland or return to university, Wheeldon Jr. chose Calgary, wanting to play under his father’s team, the Calgary Mustangs. Wheeldon Jr. played 28 games for the club before it folded in 2004.
Wheeldon Jr. again found himself “in a state of deja-vu, wondering if it was time to start another career.” Instead of heading home to England, Wheeldon Jr. stayed in Calgary where he saw “so much untapped potential.”
That potential was found in the Calgary Foothills Football Club [Calgary Foothills FC], a youth-based soccer team that started in 1972, which Wheeldon Jr. trained, coached and maintained players for more than a decade. Fast forward to 2018, Wheeldon Jr. was the natural choice to build Calgary’s next professional soccer club.
Wheeldon Jr. says that the Canadian Premier League will be different than previous professional failures and Cavalry FC “couldn’t be done without powerful ownership of the team and that’s why [professional soccer] hasn’t worked up until this point.”
“Calgary just hasn’t had the stadiums and the business models and that’s something that you know Spruce Meadows brings in in abundance.”
From the outside looking in: A player’s perspective
Adam Zymirski, who is trying out for the Cavalry, grew up in Calgary and started playing soccer when he was five years old. Zymirski’s skills and passion for the game found him progressing through Calgary’s elite soccer clubs, where he played for Wheeldon Jr.’s Calgary Foothills FC.
He eventually moved into the Calgary United Soccer Association (CUSA), which has roots in the city that date back to 1904, boasting over 310 teams and more than 9,000 registered players. However, in 2008 there were no professional teams in Calgary and Zymirski, who was 18 at the time, had to try out for professional leagues in Europe and South America. After bouncing around professional teams in Belgium and Ecuador and battling a nagging hip flexor injury Zymirski moved back to Calgary to attend university.
Zymirski says it would have been easier to achieve his dream if there was a team similar to the Cavalry FC when he was growing up.
“Basically, the training and opportunity that kids have now wasn’t around when I was growing up playing soccer in Calgary.”
Zymirski, now 28, says that kids in Calgary have a greater opportunity to get involved in higher-level soccer.
“It’s been very hard for young, good talent from Calgary to get to Europe and start playing because you have to be so good. You have to go there and break a team, but if we have a platform over here then these players can show what they have right here at home.”
Despite his age, Zymirski says he will not be deterred from trying out for the club.
“I want to go out and compare myself to all these young kids because the talent that they’re bringing in is exceptional and they’re in shape and I’m not (joking) ... it’s more of a curiosity thing, I just wanna see how good these players are and how good of a team Cavalry FC will be.”
This story appears in the November-December 2018 print issue of the Calgary Journal, on stands now!
Edit: The name Calvary was changed to Cavalry as a spelling error
- By Peter Brand