Most of you know that I was a ballboy for the Halifax Wanderers in 2019, the inaugural season of the CPL. Being a ballboy has been one of the best experiences of my life! Being at the Wanderers Grounds early on match day, the smell of the grass, and being on the sidelines seeing the stadium fill up was surreal. I really loved being a ballboy for this incredible club and I met some of my favourite people in the whole world while being a ballboy!
Then COVID hit and there were no more home games. The season was a shortened season played entirely in PEI and dubbed “The Island Games.” That's when I started CPLFever – CPLFever was my way of staying involved with the league I love.
A little while ago now my family and I moved to Portugal. Portugal is fantastic but because of that, we have not been at the Wanderers Grounds in over two years! So it's extra special to be back at home to catch a home game and have it be the Wanderers' 100th match!
Even though we try to catch games on Onesoccer from Portugal as much as we can, there is nothing quite like being back at the Wanderers Grounds!
Heading Back to the Wanderers Grounds
Parking at Citadel Hill was like having deja-vu. Even though it had been so long since we had parked at Citadel Hill everything felt so familiar – the Wanderers pre-match music playing in the distance, people walking to the match in their Wanderer's jerseys, Denton, our HFX pirate walking down the street waving the flag!
Before the game, my dad and I walked to the designated pick-up spot and scooped up our press passes. It came with a lanyard that said my name and CPL Fever on it. This was too cool because I love wearing lanyards – I know kinda funny!
While we were grabbing our press passes we ran into another old friend Carlos Benites and it was great to see how he was doing and what he was up to, which was a lot! Plus we had a great talk about soccer and his opinion on some of the different leagues.
Then we ran into my coach and Game Day Officials Liaison for the HFX Wanderers, Jose! We got a picture and caught up a little before the game. I was thrilled to see him!
A little after that we were grabbing a few snacks from the food trucks and I ran into Mike Campbell and snapped a picture with him!
I also ran into Anthony Abbott from the ever-popular footy podcast, “Down The Pub” and Denton, our one and only resident HFX Wanderers Pirate!
A little later we got settled in the stands and enjoyed a great game with two of my favourite teams in the CPL – HFX and Calvalry FC.
It was great to watch a Wanderers match again and even though it was a nil-nil draw, I really enjoyed it.
It was a game that both teams really wanted to win. Obviously, you want to win every game but I think both teams had a lot of hunger.
For the Wanderers, it was their 100th game and the stadium was jam-packed. For Cavalry if they got a win they would have moved into first place. You could see both sets of players had a big desire to win, and in different periods of the game, both teams looked very strong and very capable of getting the win.
The way that the Wanderers came out was especially impressive! Defensively they were sound and the team showed hustle and a whole lot of fight.
Two players that I had never watched in person for the Wanderers that had really impressed me were Midfield Maestro Jeremy Gagon Lapare and exciting attacker Lifumpa Mwanndwe.
Jeremy looked really comfortable and was stringing passes together really well. Very unfortunate he went off so early due to injury.
Like I said before I thought the team had good hustle, and for me, Lifumpa showed hustle in spades and I liked that!
He was fast, he did not give up on the play, he had some chances and he also did pretty well on the 1v1’s.
The whole backline was really good for the Wanderers but I was especially impressed by both of their fullbacks. I thought they were really good! Zachary Fernandez had a really good chance In the first half. He made a great run behind the backline and a beautiful diagonal ball was played to Fernandez and he was 1v1 with Marco Carducci. Marco did prevail victoriously but it was a great chance that had the entire stadium on the edge of their seats.
Gabriel Escobar was the other fullback and I thought he showed great energy and helped the team. He also put in a couple of nice crosses and some toughness.
It was fun to see Cavalry too since they are a fun team and I’m friends with a couple of their players.
One player that I thought played amazingly was Ben Fisk. Ben came on and made an impact. He gave Cavalry some energy and I was really impressed with his ability to get the ball and drive forward with it. He had a chance or two, and also put in some good crosses and overall I really liked his play!
It was also really fun for me to watch Ben since it was the first time seeing him play since I had interviewed him. He is game changing player and a great guy!
Another player that I enjoyed watching was Joe Mason.
(I wrote an article on him and his style of play a while back you can read that here)
I’m a really big fan of Joe Mason, I think he is a top-class player, he has intelligent movement and he is lethal in attack. I also think it is so awesome and amazing that he played (and scored) for my favourite club, Wolves. So being able to see a former player of the gold and black pack play in person is beyond cool for me! Joe is one player I would love to meet and interview someday!
And of course both Kieran Baskett, and Marco Carducci showed their class in net!
Fun After The Game
Another bonus was getting to meet the one and only gaffer of Cavalry FC, Tommy Wheeldon Jr in person.
In the Island Games, I went to a few different team press conferences and one of those was Tommy Wheeldon Jr’s side for Cavalry FC. I remember the first time I asked him a question I asked him about Elliot Simmons who put in a great performance, I was so nervous unmuting my mic!
Since then I have gone to Tommy’s press conferences more and more, I have even interviewed him on CPLFever and we have gotten closer, so for me I was so excited to go to an in-person press conference with him, get a picture, and finally meet him in person!
The fun did not end there though.
I also got to talk after the game with Stephen Hart, Jan Michael Williams, Eriks Santos, Jose Escalante, Ben Fisk and Elliot Simmons! It was great catching up with all of them since I have not seen them in a while.
Stephen Hart it was great to talk with Stephen in person again as it had been so long since we were both in Halifax, lol
Jan Michael Williams, is someone who I remember so fondly! He always has a great big smile, and his positive attitude is wonderful.
I remember in the summer of 2019 after a particular game the fans were allowed to come onto the field to get pictures and chat with the players. I had gotten a few pics and then after I got one with Jan, he took me to basically every player so by the end of the day my flag had all these autographs and I had gotten so many pictures with the players.
I have really liked watching Santos from in the past so I was super glad I got a picture and chatted with him a little bit.
This was the first time I got to meet Jose Escalante in person, which was awesome!
Then after I ran into some of my favourite Wanderers fans: the one and only Missy Searl and her amazing boys Chris and Daniel Searl – I love this family! They were a huge part of my Wanderers experience (and others since then) and the memories I have shared with them are some of the best!
Anthony Abbott, Carlos Benites, and I to have a very long chat with them all and it was so good to catch up! Plus I also got to meet Wanderers fan Kayla Drew!
I do have to give huge props to the Wanderers for creating such a great community where the fans have a great time together and are so excited to see each other!
I remember so long ago going to the announcement celebration of the club in downtown Halifax. I even got a shirt thrown from the stage, it is amazing to have seen it all come to life and how much it has meant to the people. And as Tommy Wheeldon said, this is why you build a league – so you grow the love for the game, inspire the people and create opportunities for this generation and the next!
Coming back to the grounds from Portugal and seeing the fans, the kitchen was one of the best parts of my day. I'm so grateful that the Wanderers have fostered this amazing community! As I leave for Portugal, it is bittersweet because being here reminds me of a life that I have built here with so many amazing people in it that I love.
From top to bottom I know I'm very proud to say I have been a ballboy and had the opportunity as media to cover this fantastic club and the Canadian Premier League.
All in all it was a fantastic day back at the grounds!
If you have a chance to catch a Wanderers game live, make sure to make it happen. It's an amazing experience.
Jack is the CPL's youngest reporter. Check me out on CBC Sports:
Also, subscribe to my YouTube Channel, JackMurrayTV