Vancouver fullback credits brothers, sisters for his love of the game
By Marc Weber
Soccer teams are sometimes described as families. Wesley Charles can describe his family as a soccer team -- with subs.
Charles, the Vancouver Whitecaps defender, has 13 full or half-brothers and sisters.
He can even name them all, though don't ask him for exact ages or birthdates.
"Doris, she's in her mid 40s, she moved to the U.S.," he starts off. "Donna is a housewife in St. Vincent. Alda's in St. Vincent, she runs a mini-market. Louann is a chef in St. Vincent. Jasmine's in Toronto. Necia lives in England. That's the girls.
"The boys -- Hormos is a farmer in St. Vincent. Alwin is also a farmer, vegetables mostly. Brenton is a senior prison officer in St. Vincent. Steve works on a cruise ship, Danny's a bus driver in St. Vincent, Carlile's also in St. Vincent -- he used to be a chef, not sure what he does now -- and William. William's the youngest, he's 27. He used to play soccer in Ireland. He's into painting and decorating."
Wesley grew up with six of them in a three-bedroom house in Brighton, St. Vincent. They lived with their mom, Lorna, who died of a mysterious illness when Charles was 16.
"The good part about growing up with so many people in the house is you're never lonely," said Charles, the hulking centre back who came to Vancouver mid-season last year after a decade in the League of Ireland's Premier Division.
"And you get to see your brothers and sisters make mistakes, so you try not to make the same ones."
He spent his childhood in a room with William and his sisters, but it was Charles's older brothers by a decade, Brenton and Alwin, that had the biggest influence on him.
Both were star soccer players for the local club, though neither garnered attention from the national team because they were out in the countryside, said Charles.
"I was always tagging along with them, going down to the park and watching them play," he said. "Every Sunday morning me and William and my sisters would go to church with my mom, then coming home I'd see my older brothers and just sit and watch them.
"They made me fall in love with soccer. I always tell anyone that I wasn't the best footballer in the family."
Keeping up with everyone has been impossible, but Charles, 33, sees most his St. Vincent-based relatives when he returns every year for a couple of months. The biggest reunion was under difficult circumstances when his dad, William, died four years ago.
He's lost touch with a couple of siblings and hasn't met all his nieces and nephews, never mind cousins. Embracing the Internet has helped, though.
An Irish friend forced him onto Facebook when Charles left Ireland last year and now he uses it, along with Skype, to chat with some of his relatives and his own four kids.
Perhaps the biggest impact growing up in a huge household had on Charles was to leave him with a laid-back style -- off the field -- and a limited desire for possessions.
Birthdays and Christmases were never a big deal, except that they revolved around soccer.
Christmas morning meant it was time for the annual village game -- top half against the bottom half. Charles lived in the top half, and they always won, he said.
He can't even remember one birthday party.
"Perhaps that's why I'm not fussy about dem stuff," he said. "Back in Ireland all my buddies kept calling me on my birthday, and I'd say, 'Na, I'm not going out.'
"We had what we needed. Anything we wanted we got, but know how it was and never really asked for a lot of things. All I wanted was a football."
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