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B.C. soccer team could lose $100,000 after trip cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreak
COQUITLAM, B.C. -- For two years, a local soccer team in Coquitlam, B.C. has been planning and fundraising for a "once-in-a-lifetime" trip. Last week, those dreams were dashed, leaving the team with nothing to show for the thousands of dollars they raised and spent on travel.
The U15 Metro-Ford team was set to fly out Wednesday for Europe, with plans to play five exhibition games in London, Manchester, Milan and Venice. Last week, they had to make the call to cancel the trip due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The federal government is advising Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to northern Italy, and the team’s games in England were cancelled by the local schools.
“We’ve spent so much time and effort into it, we were fundraising and everything and just to get cancelled, all the boys are upset,” said co-captain Nick Gasbarro.
“I’d always brag to my friends, my parents, my teachers, I got so excited. It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said striker Denis Glavas.
The struggle now is trying to recoup the costs. A total of 24 people had been booked to go on the trip, costing about $100,000, and the team says their travel agent is having trouble getting that money back.
“How does that make sense? We’re paying for hotel beds we’ll never sleep in, meals we’ll never eat,” said team manager Marion Gasbarro. “We understand we’re not a unique situation. A lot of people are dealing with this, but all we ask for is a little bit of fairness.”
In an emailed statement, the travel agency, Personal Travel Management, said "all of our clients are of great value to us and we always work to ensure they are taken care of. This happens to be a first-ever type of scenario that could not have been planned for. We are all working through this with understanding, yet bound by certain criteria. We always fight for our clients."
Head coach Giovanni Gasbarro says the team would be happy with travel credit to help book another trip next year.
“These are some unusual circumstances," he said. "We're trying to get as much money – at least a credit – to next year, as possible."