Vancouver Street Soccer League trains with the Vancouver Whitecaps

Posted: July 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

VANCOUVER, B.C. – On a sunny Monday afternoon at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside, members of the Vancouver Whitecaps Men’s and Women’s teams trained and scrimmaged with Vancouver Street Soccer League players. It was a great opportunity for Vancouver Street Soccer players to practice with the pros and learn a few tricks.

Alan Bates is the President and founder of the Vancouver Street Soccer League. While studying psychiatry at the University of British Columbia Bates got involved in the community and learned a lot about the issues facing Vancouver’s homeless community. When Bates started the Vancouver Street Soccer League in 2008, it consisted of only one team. Now, four-year later the league is thriving with nine teams including teams in North Vancouver, Surrey, Nanaimo, and Victoria. They practice twice a week and games are played every Sunday morning.

For his work with the Street Soccer League, Bates has been nominated by the Vancouver Whitecaps for the 2012 MLS W.O.R.K.S. Community MVP Award. Currently Bates is in third place with voting ending at 2:00pm PT on Friday. The winner of the Community MVP Award is awarded a $10,000, which goes to the charity of his or her or her choice. The winner will also receive a trip for two to the MLS All-Star game at PPL Park in Philadelphia on July 25. When asked about the contest, Bates said: “We’re approaching it as a team. We’re all voting as a team and we’re all going to win as a team.” You can vote for Bates here – vote

Bates talked about all the benefits the Vancouver Street Soccer League brings to the local community and how he got nominated by the Whitecaps.

“I’ve seen huge changes (in the players)” he said. “I think just coming out and having friends on the field who also support you off the field leads to getting better housing, reducing drug and alcohol use, getting more physically fit and just being more healthy in general.”

Bates also noted how important the Whitecaps FC has been for the Street Soccer League: “The Whitecaps have been big supporters of ours over the last few years and the latest cool thing they did for us was to nominate us for this award. If we were to win the $10,000 it would be huge for our league in terms of growing it and allowing us to do some new things.”

Bates and Vancouver Street Soccer have changed the lives of many. At one point or another, every player has faced being homeless. Some of the players have also battled with alcohol and drug addiction, both of which are a huge problem on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Playing soccer and being part of a team has created life long friendships, improved fitness, and given players an opportunity to turn their lives around for the better. The Vancouver Street Soccer League has achieved great success on the field too: Canada was represented at the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Brazil by a Women’s team from Vancouver. A year later a Men’s team from Vancouver made the journey to Paris for the 2011 Homeless World Cup.

Joining a soccer team in one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods, many players never imagined they would be standing next to the Eiffel Tower one day down the road. Patrick, who captained the Men’s team in France plays on the Portland FC and talked about how the Vancouver Street Soccer League has changed his life.

“I came from the Downtown Eastside pretty much drinking, smoking cigarettes, and doing drugs for seven years before I joined the team. Once I joined the team there was a lot of support for people that wanted to get off the street and I thought it would be a nice idea to try it out.”

Patrick completed his first marathon in May this year when he ran in the Vancouver Marathon, and is very grateful to everyone who supports the Vancouver Street Soccer League.

“I started the marathon training because I wanted to get better at 11 aside soccer and I hope to play soccer for another twenty years,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of support from a lot of the volunteers, they tend to like to help me because I’m trying pretty hard.”

This afternoon at Oppenheimer Park, the Vancouver Whitecaps Men and Women had Matt Watson, Carlyle Mitchell, Gurveen Clair, and Shannon Woeller taking on the Vancouver Street Soccer League players during a fun game of footy. It was a pretty even contest until the end when the Whitecaps players were out of breath and in search of water. The Vancouver Street Soccer players held their own and showed great toughness and competitiveness against the Whitecaps foursome.  Watson really enjoyed practicing with the Vancouver Street Soccer players.

“It’s just a beautiful day in Vancouver and obviously these guys love soccer,” he said. “It’s great that the Vancouver Whitecaps are doing stuff to get out here and play with these guys (and girls). I had a really fun time — they’re really good,” he said. “Hopefully it means a lot for them for us to come out here. It means a lot to me to get to play with them.”

Vancouver Whitecaps Women’s goalie Gurveen Clair played out of net and did quite well on the right flank, even scoring a few goals. She was surprised by the talent the Vancouver Street Soccer players showed.

“I think it’s great for the (Whitecaps) club to do stuff like this and be out in the environment, I personally enjoyed it. A lot of times you’re practicing and it’s always so focused. It’s good to come out and kick the ball around with people who just genuinely love the game,” she said. “Some of them were jaw-dropping good, I can’t even do that and you knew these guys (and girls) were here to play and I think that’s what made it so much fun, neither side really backed down.”

Notes: Unlike the FIFA World Cup, the Homeless World Cup is held every year for Men and Women around the world. The 2012 Homeless World Cup takes place in Mexico City from October 6-14. The Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team stopped by for a practice at the end of January and Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace played with the Vancouver Street Soccer League in June.


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