Maple Pool United is sending its third player in as many seasons to the Homeless World Cup of Soccer.
Christine Watson of Courtenay has been selected to play for the Canadian women’s team at this year’s tournament in October in Santiago, Chile. Officials from Street Soccer Canada named her to the squad following the Western Canadian qualifier in North Vancouver in May.
“I’m thrilled. Couldn’t believe it,” said Watson, 41. “I’m kind of shocked because I didn’t think I played that well. I scored a goal but I’m older and I get tired quite quickly.”
Operating at the Maple Pool Campground, the local street soccer program enables homeless and marginalized individuals to exercise, socialize and compete in a fun environment. The sport involves four-person teams that play on a field about 22 metres long with hockey-size nets.
The program has allowed Watson to relive her teen years when she played soccer in the Valley.
“I really like the soccer because it’s fun, and it’s free,” she said. “It’s something I need. I couldn’t see myself not having a sport or something like that. I enjoy it, even though it’s hard on me. I get frustrated sometimes.”
Years back, Watson had attained a first-year electrician ticket. In two weeks, she made more money than she had in a month at any other job. But plans for an apprenticeship were thwarted when she was attacked by a pit bull in 1999. She underwent eight reconstructive surgeries to repair the muscle in her cheek and around her mouth.
To this day, Watson suffers migraines, which is part of the reason she can’t work full-time. She receives disability assistance, supplementing her income with a paper route. She has been on a methadose recovery program for about eight years.
“It’s tough to get off it,” said Watson, who has received assistance from the Care-A-Van mobile medical unit’s smoking cessation program.
Her team will host a car wash and other fundraisers in the coming months to help fund her trip to South America.
“We’re pretty stoked about it,” said Maple Pool coach/co-ordinator Grant Shilling, who refers to his squad as “the little team that could.”
Watson is the third member of Maple Pool United selected to represent Canada at the Homeless World Cup. The first was Joan Mathias who played at the 2012 tournament in Mexico. Then Heath Young was selected for last year’s event in Poland.
The Homeless World Cup caters to all footballing abilities, meaning each team plays for a trophy. This year’s tournament is expected to host more than 500 players from 64 countries.