Maple Pool United plans to trek to Kelowna Sept. 7 to 9 for the Western Canadian qualifier for the Homeless World Cup of soccer.
But the team needs a helping hand from the community to get there.
The team, which grew out of the Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness Society street soccer program, competed in its first tournament last month in Victoria. Operating out of the Maple Pool Campsite, the program provides an opportunity for homeless and marginalized individuals to exercise, socialize and have fun.
And to compete.
Representatives from Street Soccer Canada will be at the Kelowna tournament, from which a member of Maple Pool United could be selected to represent the country at the Homeless World Cup in October in Mexico City.
“I just hope that we can get enough funding to get us out there. Just getting off the Island is exciting all on its own,” said team member Joan Mathias, who appreciates the health benefits of regular exercise. She hasn’t lit a cigarette in two weeks.
“It’s kind of nice having that extra little bit of wind there when you need it.”
Mathias is among the 10 or so regulars who attend weekly practices at Maple Pool. Though somewhat intimidated beforehand, she said the Victoria tournament “opened our eyes” to the world of street soccer.
“We met some really interesting people,” she said.
For teammate James Howard, the main thing is the camaraderie that has developed since the team formed.
“It bolsters up our deflated egos,” said Howard, who has also cut down on cigarettes. “There’s a lot of us that come out here … they put aside the things they do on a normal basis just to come out here.”
“Being part of a team is paramount,” he added. “It gives motivation. We’re redefining skills that we have learned a long time ago. It really enables us to get out of ourselves for a couple of hours a day.”
The Maple Pool resident has competed in various sports throughout his life in B.C. and the U.S. He once worked for a fitness company in Arizona.
Howard credits campsite owners Dali and Jin Lin for supplying the playing field and post-game refreshments — and for participating in games and practices.
“They’re in full support of us,” he said. “They’ve gone the extra mile, as well being valued members of the team. Jin’s even bought herself some goalie gloves.”
Comox Rotary and Street Soccer Canada have also supported Maple Pool United.
Those wishing to donate cleats or to help fund the trip to Kelowna are asked to contact Grant Shilling at 250-218-3136.