Maple Pool United is hosting a street soccer challenge July 8 at Lewis Park in Courtenay, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The tournament will be a fundraiser for the squad, which coach Grant Shilling affectionately calls, ‘The little team that could.’
“The idea is to support the Dawn to Dawn Maple Pool United Street Soccer Program, to have some social inclusion, and mixing between street soccer teams and those that are new to it, the corporate teams,” said Shilling, a residential support program worker at the Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society. “And to provide our players with some motivation in terms of having a tournament.”
The street soccer program provides an opportunity for individuals on the fringes of society to exercise, socialize and compete in a fun environment.
Shilling started the program six years ago. Since then, three MPU players have competed at the Homeless World Cup of Soccer in various corners of the world.
Samantha Boulianne has been playing with MPU “on and off” for about three years.
“It’s a blast,” she said. “I love being the goalie out here. And I get out there and run a bit. Score some goals myself sometimes even. That’s something to be proud about.”
The Valley-raised Boulianne recalls playing soccer, hockey, volleyball and basketball in years past. She had been homeless for a time, but now resides in Black Creek, where she has a chicken farm.
“His (Shilling) program is outstanding,” said Boulianne, who is on a disability. “At one point when I was homeless it got me into a house. It got a roof over my head for quite some time…They do a good thing out here.”
Zachary Mckenzie joined the team last year after seeing the program advertised on a poster. The Comox resident works at the Eureka Support Society in Courtenay.
“I have been homeless myself, and I’ve had mental health issues as well, so something like this is really good to get yourself out there,” Mckenzie said. “Meet new people, and do something healthy.”
Maple Pool United will kick things off July 8 with a demonstration game against the Kelowna Kodiaks.
There will also be a street soccer team from Seattle, and hopefully some players from Hamilton, Ont.
Corporate teams include Finneron Hyundai, Guerrilla Food Company, AFC Construction, Muchalat Construction, Sure Copy and Canadian Tire. The latter has room for more players.
There is a $250 entry fee per team. All teams that enter get a T-shirt bearing a new MPU logo.
Because the governing body, Street Soccer Canada, is facing financial challenges, Shilling hopes to raise enough money to send another MPU member to this year’s Homeless World Cup in Oslo, Norway.
For more information, to donate or to play in the tourney, contact Shilling at firstname.lastname@example.org