LETHBRIDGE – He fit right into the crowd. Wearing a white team-issued t-shirt and blue baseball cap, Marcus Karpati looked pretty much like any other of the 200 or so fans cheering on the Lethbridge Football Club Saturday afternoon. However, he’s anything but.
Up until last season Karpati was a standout defender for LFC. A former player at the University of Lethbridge who had made Lethbridge his home. Until his entire world changed in April when he was diagnosed with cancer. He’s now terminally ill, undergoing treatment in Calgary. But he has stayed in constant contact with his LFC teammates.
“He’s been with us all season, showing up to our games in Calgary where he’s getting treatment,” said LFC team captain Andrew Malcolm. “Texting us after every practice, after every game. He’s an inspiration for all of us.”
Saturday Karpati made his way back to Lethbridge to watch LFC play the most important game in program history. A 2-0 win over Edmonton Green and Gold clinched the Alberta Major Soccer League regular season title for LFC for the first time in team history. For the players on the team it was a thrill to have Karpati there as a part of it.
“To have him here, it’s just, it’s inspiring,” said striker Almir Gazic, who scored both of LFC’s goals. “It’s great to have him to share this moment with him. He’s just a phenomenal guy and I’m so glad he could travel here to be with us today.”
After the game every single player went and celebrated with Karpati, seated on the sidelines in a lawn chair, sharing hugs and high-fives.
“Absolutely an inspiration, it brings a tear to my eye just thinking about a great friend, and, ya…” said Malcolm. Stopping the sentence as he was overcome by emotion.
It was an emotional season for LFC. Using Karpati as inspiration the club clawed its way to the top of the AMSL. A stunning achievement for a team traditionally located near the bottom of the standings. But unprecedented talent and depth led the squad to new heights.
“This is what they deserve,” said head coach Sean Carey. “This is absolutely, 100 per cent what these guys have worked for last five years I’ve been involved with these guys. And they’ve got the rewards now.”
“I’ve been here since the club started, so 7 years of hard work, and it’s not always been the easiest,” echoed Malcolm after the game. “But this year we really came together and there was no doubt in my mind we were going to win today and win the league.”
Now LFC moves on to the provincial championship tournament, Labour Day weekend in Edmonton, as the top seed. One more chance to win one for Marcus.