The many faces of Calgary minor soccer
By April Cruz
At the Outdoor Provincial games happening in Airdrie over the weekend, a certain group of young boys from a Calgary Minor Soccer team were hanging out on the grass between two fields.
They were waiting for the rest of their team to arrive for an afternoon game. The boys were talking about soccer games they had recently watched and challenging each other’s opinions of which premiere player would beat out another. There was a lot of teasing and laughter going on.
The group of seven were on the Calgary Saddle Ridge XI, boys U14 Tier 3 team.
They all met through the Saddle Ridge Soccer Club and were clearly a tight group of friends.
One unique aspect of this small network of players, several of them came to Canada from different parts of the globe only a few years ago. Some were not able to speak English when they arrived.
When asked where they were from and how soccer became their sport of choice, the seven of them were eager to answer. For a group of 12 and 13 year old boys, they were polite and articulate, not to mention entertaining.
Please help us serve you better by filling out this brief survey form. We thank you for your feedback and your commitment to local online news about Calgary Minor Soccer.
Abdullah is player # 6 on the team. He was born in Pakistan and came to Canada when he was five.
“When I was in grade two, people were playing soccer. I played the sport for the first time. I started to like it, watch it,” he shared. “My parents don’t really care if I play soccer or not, they care most about your education, but that hasn’t discouraged me from playing.”
Ilham is player # 15. Born in Afghanistan, he came to Canada when he was seven. He is the youngest child out of 11, five sisters and five brothers.
“My brother always played on soccer teams, I always wanted to join. I’d search Youtube videos. I always wanted to play professional players. It’s a really fun sport,” he said. “My parents don’t make it out, they’re busy, they work a lot. My parents do encourage me to play well so I can get picked up by a scout.”
Osama is player # 5 and he too is from Pakistan. He and his family came to Canada when he was eight.
“I just came to Canada and saw people playing soccer. They inspired me. Started playing at school,” he said.
Rajeev is # 27 on the team and he was born in B.C. His family moved to Calgary when he was a baby.
“My whole family plays soccer. My dad really likes soccer so he got me into it,” shared Rajeev. “We have a family restaurant so my dad never comes out but my mom usually does.”
Rejeev’s mom, Usha, often drives most of the group to and from their games. All seven boys expressed their appreciation for Usha and her considerate support. She had dropped them off that day.
Malik is player # 11 and he was born in Zimbabwe. His family moved to Canada when he was two years old but he recalls early childhood soccer memories.
“Then I just had some blow up size two soccer ball that I used to play with,” he said. ”Then when I got into school, I just started playing soccer. Then after that I decided to join Saddle Ridge because it was the closest club.”
Malik joked about his father, who used to coach soccer in Africa, being animated on the sidelines during games. Due to his dad having to work many hours each day, he’s not able to make it out to many of Malik’s games.
Animated in his own way, Malik pointed out that there isn’t any Caucasian players on their team.
“We’re basically all brown,” he said, while the rest of the group laughed and commented ‘different shades of it’.
Mirwais, player # 7 on the team was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. His family immigrated to Canada when he was eight-years old. He didn’t speak English when they arrived.
“When we first came, we didn’t have a job or anything. My dad was looking around and he found Steph, the manager of the club and he’s been my dad’s friend since we came to Canada,” he shared. “He’s been a really nice person. He even helped us so I could play soccer. We want our parents to come out but they’re working.”
Tajuddin is Mirwais’s little brother. He was born in Pakistan and recalls coming to Canada when he was five years old.
“(I) started playing soccer ’cause my brother was. I want to play for as long as I can. I don’t really care which team, as long as I can play,” he said.
The manager of the club mentioned by Mirwais, Stephan Horbay, has exemplified the Saddle Ridge Soccer Club’s mission.
“Since 2008, SRCA has provided an affordable, community-driven soccer program for their members. From its inception, the partnership between SRCA and Grassroots Sports has worked towards a goal of making playing soccer an opportunity that is accesible to all families,” according to the club’s website.
It’s certainly mission accomplished with the seven boys above.