Gus Etchegary began his soccer career in 1945 as a player with Burin from 1945 -1950. In 1951 and 1952, Gus played with St. Lawrence, and from 1953 -1959 he again played with Burin. In his playing days, he displayed a great level of leadership. This level of leadership continued when he moved into executive positions for the administration of soccer. He was elected president of the Burin Peninsula Athletic Association in 1959. After moving to St. John’s in the early 1960s, he became president of the St. John's Football League in 1964. In 1966 he went on to become president of the Newfoundland Soccer Association. In 1970, he became vice-president of the Canadian Soccer Association. He is an Honorary Life Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association. In 1975, he was inducted into Sport Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame. Gus Etchegary, along with Fred Tessier from Grand Bank, were the first two inductees into the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the St. John’s, Burin Peninsula and the St. Lawrence Soccer Hall of Fames. In 2007, Gus was the first Newfoundlander to ever be elected into Canada’s Soccer Hall of Fame. He was born in St. Lawrence on May 24, 1924 and now resides in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s. To get a deeper insight into this individual’s soccer history I asked the man, whom I feel, is ‘Newfoundland’s Father of Soccer’ the following questions:
1. What is the biggest change in soccer that you have seen in the last 50 years?
Coaching, player skill levels and officiating have improved tremendously. Participation in all areas has increased except at senior level but most of all regulation size pitches in all parts of the province have increased enormously and that's a major accomplishment. Soccer facilities right across the province are first class and growing. The playing surface and the overall facility at King George V pitch matches anything in Canada and this has to be one of the great accomplishments of soccer in Newfoundland and Labrador.
2. You must have some great memories of playing soccer in St. Pierre. Would you mind sharing a few of those stories with us?
Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, I recall two trips, a distance of 32 miles, made to St. Pierre on long weekends. One trip from St. Lawrence was made in a 35-foot open trap skiff with 15 people each, equipped with a rubber tire in lieu of standard lifejackets. We lost the first game to the ASSP but recovered from seasickness to win the second game. The second trip involved St. Lawrence and Burin teams combining to charter the coastal boat ‘Bar Haven’ for three days. The teams and supporters numbered 220 but the vessel had life-saving gear for only 160 passengers. The captain allowed us to take inner tubes as a replacement which worked just fine except for the fact we had one player who liked his drink a lot more than his team mates. When we returned to St. Lawrence three days later, the customs officer stationed on the wharf noticed that our special player, walking down the gang-plank, was labouring under the heavy weight of the life-saving tire slung over his shoulder. The officer investigated and found it was full of pure alcohol. The team appealed to the benevolent customs man and its contents were spilled over the wharf and the incident never recorded.
3. I’ve heard you speak on a number of occasions and express your feelings about Holy Cross. Tell us about Holy Cross?
Yes, there is no doubt the combined efforts of officials and teams of Holy Cross and St. Lawrence soccer associations contributed immensely to the development of competition between Burin Peninsula and St. John's soccer leagues. Since 1950 both of these teams and their associations have had uninterrupted participation in the growth and development of the game of soccer. Some of the past leaders of St. Lawrence and Holy Cross clubs made an extraordinary contribution to building the foundation for what is today’s most popular sport in the province.
4. You have always been a great supporter and promoter of Newfoundland soccer and in particular the St. Lawrence Laurentians. Realistically, how much longer can St. Lawrence continue to survive as a dominant force at both provincial and national soccer?
It’s impossible to predict nowadays. If someone was to indicate a short while ago that a major growth center like Marystown would be unable to field a competitive team on the Burin Peninsula or that Grand Bank, one of the founders of soccer on the Peninsula couldn't field a team you just wouldn't believe them. You have to make a strong and determined effort to “hang in there" when the going gets tough. Soccer was and I guess still is ingrained in the St. Lawrence psyche. Something tells me to be positive and have faith in those young players they are developing. I believe they will have the same determination and dedication of the players in the past, who were also miners.
5. Name three of the greatest players that you ever played with?
That's difficult to say because there some good ones but I would say Gus Tarrant, Herb Slaney and Bill Slaney (who played in England) were very effective when I played with St. Lawrence.
6. Name three of the greatest players that you ever played against?
That's even more difficult because there were many good players on the Burin Peninsula, St. John's and with Corner Brook. Walt LeMessurier was the best goalkeeper in the province. Doug Browne, who played for the Guards, was an excellent striker and it's difficult to choose between Tom Rose of Grand Bank or "Gabby" Butler of Guards. They were both very good.
7. What’s does the future hold for Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer?
On the basis of what’s happening in soccer in Newfoundland and Labrador in the last few years, culminating in what can only be described as a mess in 2008. I frankly believe there is a pressing need – to put it mildly – to re-restructure the NLSA and other associations if necessary to provide leadership and whatever programs are required to rebuild the sport of soccer in the province. What's happening here in St. John's, the Burin Peninsula and other parts of the province with respect to the provincial organization is not acceptable. It took too much hard work, persistence and well-motivated people to bring provincial soccer where it was a few years ago to let it die on the vine now. The clubs, which are essential, will die with the present trend. The comments on the referee situation (justified or not) should not be occurring in 2008, and whether anyone likes it or not, the game, in many aspects, in is disrepute. No one person, group, town or city can be permitted to set a course for the future of the game unless it’s for the overall benefit of the sport. If we don’t have the personnel or organization in place to bring the soccer community together, then seek help. We are a full-fledged member of the CSA and it brings many responsibilities including fostering the growth of soccer on an island-wide basis. While there is a strong minor soccer system in St. John's area and that's laudable but where are these young players going in a few years? There are many reasons for mass participation in minor in these days with so many demands on parents. Something has to done and valuable time is passing as soccer development in Newfoundland and Labrador is in reverse.
Dunphy’s Details: There is no doubt that times are changing and so is soccer in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. No longer are the meadows filled with kids kicking around a soccer ball. Today, if the kids are not brought by the parents to a place where a structured soccer program is in place the kids will simply not participate. With changing times we all must move in a different direction than we have in the past and we must remain positive. Again, I will repeat that the Burin Peninsula Association only needs a three-club system in order to adapt to these changing times. I feel St. Lawrence and Lawn should be a single club, Marystown and Burin should unite their soccer programs while Grand Bank and Fortune should operate as one club. Here in St. John’s overall, soccer is booming. However, we must add another senior club to the Provincial Challenge Cup League. Too many young kids are not getting the opportunity to play at the Challenge Cup level because of the lack of teams. I have followed up on the St. John’s third club suggestion and I am in the process of exploring to see if I could get a third St. John’s Challenge Cup Team ready for next season. Although this is at the initial stage, I have spoken with NLSA President Doug Redmond, NLSA Technical Director Dragon Mirkovic and Scott Betts, Coach of Memorial University’s Mens team. They all have given me their full support but one must realize there is a lot work to be done and most of it is usually done behind closed doors.