The biggest sporting event to hit Vancouver Island in years is set to take place July 21 at Centennial Stadium, when local PDL side Victoria Highlanders will play host to famed Scottish club Rangers F.C. from Glasgow.
The friendly match at UVic is expected to draw a sellout crowd of not only local Highlanders fans, but many Rangers supporters in Victoria and Western Canada. The club is known for having one of the largest and most passionate fan bases in Glasgow and around the world.
The last few years have been some of the most tumultuous in Rangers’ 142-year history. In 2012, after being unable to pay their existing debts to various creditors, the club was liquidated. This led to their removal from Scotland’s Premier League, and their subsequent relocation in the country’s lowest league, the Third Division.
Fan loyalty was tested, but two years since Rangers’ significant monetary and league collapses, the team has shown strong results. The club has quickly worked their way up to the First Division under the coaching leadership of Rangers legend Ally McCoist, who played with the side for 15 years. McCoist was able to guide his squad to the Third Division title in 2013, followed by a dominant run in which Rangers did not lose a game en route to capturing the Second Division title this April. Should Rangers again emerge on top of the table, they will have completed the journey back to the Premier League, where longtime crosstown rivals Celtic have won both titles in their absence.
The Highlanders meanwhile are enjoying a successful season in the PDL. They currently sit in second place with a record of 5-3-3, and are well placed for the playoffs. Carlo Basso and Blair Sturrock have led the offensive charge with four goals each, while Andrew Ravenhill, who recently wrapped up his five-year collegiate career with the UVic Vikes, has pitched in with four assists.
For most of the Highlanders squad this will be the highest level of opposition they face in their careers. Defenceman Gavin Barrett commented on the opportunity to kick off against one of the world’s most famous and well-accomplished squads.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Barrett on facing off against a team that holds the world record for league titles, an astonishing 54. “When I first heard about it I was like, ‘Do they mean the Rangers?’ It’s really exciting.”
The Highlanders organization already enjoys a heavy Scottish influence among their fan base, which will be expected at the game-day atmosphere. “We’re expecting it to be sold out,” added Barrett.
Kickoff is set for Monday, July 21 at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at selectyourtickets.com, or by calling 250-220-7777.