The Cumberland Empire Events Society and the Nanaimo United Football Club are hoping to revive a soccer challenge that began in the 19th century.
The proposal is to play a pair of old-timers’ matches next year, the first at the Victoria Day celebration in Cumberland, and the second at Nanaimo United’s annual preseason tournament in August. The winner would be awarded the Grand Challenge Cup — which is older than the Stanley Cup.
In recent years, a group of individuals who share an interest in history acquired the cup. They established an organization, Friends of Harry Manson — named after an outstanding First Nations soccer player of the early 20th century — to conserve and promote the Grand Challenge Cup of the Nanaimo Football Association.
The association donated the 36-inch trophy to the B.C. Football Association when it was established in 1891 in Nanaimo. From 1892 to 1904, the Grand Challenge Cup served as the provincial championship. After a new B.C. soccer association formed in 1905, the cup became emblematic of the Upper Island League championship until 1925, when the league folded.
In 1892, the Nanaimo Rangers became the first team to win the Grand Challenge Cup.
Cumberland United won it in 1921 and 1924. In the 1921/22 season, Cumberland also won the Vancouver Island Cup and the McBride Shield, which was the provincial championship. The team beat Mainland Cup winner St. Andrew’s Saints of Vancouver 3-0 to win the latter. Cumberland then lost to Ladysmith in the final B.C. qualifying match for the Connaught Cup, which determined the Canadian champion.
Cumberland United and Nanaimo City each won two of the last four Grand Challenge Cup competitions.
With any luck, the rivalry will reignite next year.