Valentine: 'One of the biggest nights of my career'

Opening night BC Place - full team photo

I just recently had someone post an interview with Jack Webster on Facebook, which I had never seen before. It was a live interview on September 10, 1979 – two days after we won the Soccer Bowl.

There was myself Bobby Lenarduzzi, John Craven, Trevor Whymark and Ray Lewington after beating the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the final and coming home to well over 100,000 people for our parade to Robson Street. Why do I bring this up? Because it’s the first time I remember being asked if we now needed a new stadium. I know they didn’t build BC Place just for us but that Soccer Bowl win and the turnout for our homecoming was instrumental in the stadium getting built.

The 1983 NASL season was always going to be special.

We had a really good team and we knew we were opening BC Place. Our first 11 games were played away from our new home, and we did quite well winning 10 out of 11, but now it was time to focus on one of the biggest nights of my career.

The game was to be played on a Monday night (June 20, 1983), exactly 34 years ago today. 

Our I5 rivals, the Seattle Sounders, were our opponents and we knew we would be playing in front of a record sellout crowd of 60,342, who had – like us – waited for this day since they broke ground on the stadium in 1981.

I remember driving to the game full of excitement, thinking of this once in a lifetime opportunity to open our brand new stadium. There was a buzz in the changing room when I arrived, and when we went out for the warmup, there was a buzz in the stands too.

After the manager John Giles gave his team talk, and before we went onto the field for kickoff, we had a little time to ourselves. I was sat next to my good friend Bobby Lenarduzzi and I was wondering what it was like for him getting ready to play in this big game in his hometown.

As you could imagine, when we took the field the noise was deafening. That’s when I really knew we could not lose this game.

The games against Seattle were always tight and this was no different. Midway through the first half our left back Mike Sweeney played a give-and-go with David Cross and then crossed the ball to Peter Beardsley, who headed in our first goal at BC Place.

It was great to get the opening goal, but I just knew the next one was going to be the winner.

I was doing my best to make something happen but wasn’t having much luck and I have to admit I was getting a bit nervous. In the 68th minute, Fran O'Brien chased a ball down the left wing, cut inside and fed Beardsley at the top of the box. Peter went one way, then cut back onto his left foot and planted the ball into the far corner. The crowd went wild and I even planted a big kiss on Beardsley’s cheek to celebrate his goal. The rest of the game was a blur for me as we hung on to win the game 2-1.

The crowd was ready to party and we stayed on the field to share this glorious night with them.

We did not make the final that year, which was disappointing, but nothing could take away from that night and the joy that we all shared. After the game, I was feeling really proud of the part I had played, and the way our team was not going to be denied on this special occasion.

And I felt really honoured to play in front of a crowd that cheered their hearts out and willed us onto a famous victory on a night to remember.

Whitecaps FC Ring of Honour inductee Carl Valentine is the club's all-time leader in appearances and fourth all-time in goals scored. Currently, Valentine serves as a club ambassador and U-16 Residency assistant coach.