While many people can claim that their dad once coached them at youth soccer level or even beyond, not many can say that their dad played a physical part in the creation of their new professional club’s home. Vancouver FC’s captain Callum Irving, however, can proudly say this. The how and why we’ll come to later, but this Father’s Day was the perfect time for Callum to reflect on the man that made the VFC keeper the man he is today.
Robert Irving, born in 1960 and raised in Vancouver, is the epitome of that classic handyman dad.
“He’s just someone who is always looking to lend a helping hand,” Irving told AFTN. “He’s an absolute all around handyman.”
In his youth, Robert played soccer all the way up until university, where he played for SFU in the early 80s. Like his son, he was a goalkeeper, and when it was time for his son to don the gloves, he became a huge influence and supporter of Irving.
“He’s been the most supportive person in my career,” Irving revealed. “He drove me to every single game, every single training session, [and] he was always pushing me [forward] and pushing for opportunities for me.”
As a goalkeeping father who is very involved in his son’s life, you may think he would be on his case about his son’s goalkeeping ability, but for Robert, it was always about keeping his son grounded and headstrong.
“[For him] it’s about mentality and attitude,” Irving said. “He is someone who is extremely hardworking and selfless, and he would teach me on attitude more than on how I would play.
“He just let me play, but he never let me have a bad attitude or grow too big an ego.”
Now in his 60s, Robert is a scenic artist and foreman in the film industry. But he has always made time to go above and beyond both for his son and the sport of soccer, even when he was a kid.
“He loves the game, and he loves supporting it in any way,” Irving told us. “These are the values he lives by. When I was a kid, he would be coaching our teams, lining our fields, and would even go out on a Friday with his lawnmower and cut the grass off the field so that we could feel like we were playing somewhere nice.”
And now with his son at a new club, Robert went above and beyond once more by helping build the stalls of the dressing rooms at the new Willoughby Park stadium.
So how did this come about?
“That’s just my dad being my dad,” Irving laughed. “He’s a guy who likes to hover, coming to all the trials and open training sessions. He’s always around.”
For Irving, his dad’s selfless act to help out when it was not required shows how committed he is to the team, and represents the values that Vancouver Football Club wants to be all about.
“A lot about building this club is getting good people around, who are willing to do whatever it takes to get it started,” Irving explained. “We have a lot of people who will do that, and my dad was very happy to help out in that way. Even if for someone of his experience and age, where that’s grunt work, he’s still very happy to help out.
“He is someone that always goes that extra mile for other people, and that’s what we need from the club. You want everyone to be all in, from the fans, to the players, to the staff, and he is someone who shows that.”
And with the Father’s Day match on Tuesday against Forge FC, Irving will be hoping to get a result for his dad, although the occasion is not much different from every time Irving plays.
“It’s funny because my whole career is just dedicated to my family and to him,” Irving mused. “Because without them, I would have had no chance to get to where I am now,”
“The fact that it’s a Father’s Day game makes it a little easier to dedicate it to him, it’s a bit more symbolic. But every time I put my shirt on and go train or play, it’s all for them. It’s to make them proud.”
And with Vancouver looking for their second win of the season, they will need all that support from the crowd against the league giants of Forge. So if you are in the stands for the match on Tuesday, look out for an ever-supportive Robert Irving, cheering on from the sidelines, enjoying the fruits of his labour both on and off the pitch.