‘It’s sad:’ Families leave without playing soccer tournament due to unhealthy air quality

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. – The Inland Northwest saw hazy skies Saturday morning. The air quality index remained in the unhealthy range all day. Because of that, the Northwest Cup canceled the tournament.

The Spokane Polo Club Fields should’ve been filled with kids competing in the Northwest Cup.

“Looks lonely,” said Julian Gaspar, looking around at the empty fields.

Ten-year-old Julian was supposed to be one of about 2,500 kids playing soccer this weekend. But when the air quality index hits over 150, they’re unable to play.  That was the case for the entire tournament weekend.

“I thought we were going to have a game today,” he said, sighing beforehand.

Saturday marked day three of the four-day tournament. Not a single game was played. The first games were scheduled to start Thursday evening, but the air quality ended up being poor. Those games got postponed to Friday, but then on Friday, Manny Faridnia, the tournament director, had to push them to Saturday.

Saturday morning came around and the air quality remained in the unhealthy range. They decided to cancel the tournament altogether.

PAST COVERAGE: Northwest Cup tournament canceled due to air quality

“It feels rough because we drove a long way to get here,” Julian said.

“It’s sad. A lot of work goes into the tournament. Preparation, communication, schedule, you name it. The worst part is the kids. They love to play,” Faridnia said.

Families come from all over to Airway Heights to play in the Northwest Cup. Faridnia said they see around 6,000 to 7,000 people come. That number includes players, their siblings and parents.

All of those people ended up packing their belongings Saturday morning when they were told the tournament had been canceled. Julian and his family had a three-hour drive back home to Sunnyside after a disappointing weekend.

“It was kind of a bummer because we were really ready for a weekend of soccer, you know. To drive all the way over here, the kids were excited,” said Tony Gaspar, Julian’s father.

Though they couldn’t play in the tournament, Tony said they tried to make the most of it.

“Kind of used it as a camping trip, so that made up for no soccer,” Tony said. “It was a good experience just coming out here and having pretty much a bunch of soccer fields to ourselves. So, the kids enjoyed that.”

This is the second year in a row the Northwest Cup got canceled. The pandemic put a halt to it last year. Faridnia said they’ll be back next year.

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