1933 soccer team honoured in Asian Heritage Month

posted in: Chinese, Highlights, History | 0

The Chinese Students’ Soccer Team was formed in Vancouver in 1920 and its success provided hope and inspiration at a time of discrimination against the Chinese community in Canada. The team is one of a list of “Notable Canadians of Asian heritage” compiled by the Canadian government for Asian Heritage Month.

The Chinese Students’ Soccer Team was a source of hope and inspiration at a time when Canada’s Chinese community faced multiple kinds of discrimination.
Photo Credit: Photo by C.B. Wand, courtesy Robert Yip

Law forbade Chinese immigration

In 1923, Canada passed the Chinese Immigration Act that disallowed Chinese immigration. The Chinese community at the time was largely made up of men who had come to work. Most could not afford to bring their families because Canada had imposed a so-called Head Tax on Chinese wanting to immigrate. It took years to save the money and many men died without ever seeing their families again.

The federal government imposed a $50 head tax on Chinese immigrants in 1885 after Chinese workers were no longer needed to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Most Chinese men could barely afford to pay it and had to leave their families behind. © CBC

Chinese people were not allowed to vote. They were barred from entering most professions and their business licenses restricted them to the Chinese quarter. It would be some time before discriminatory practices were gradually repealed.

Soccer players won respect

The Chinese Student’s Soccer Team was the only non-white soccer team in the western province of British Columbia, which most Chinese migrants had settled.

The team became famous for skill, speed and sportsmanship and it won a provincial championship in 1933. By doing so, the government website notes that the players “won respect for their community.”

It also notes that several of the players made history through their accomplishments in later years. I’ll have more on that in future posts.

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