The Vancouver Whitecaps came to the Island, had some fun, and made some fans and some friends.
The Whitecaps FC soccer team was in Nanaimo on Wednesday for the annual Vancouver Island Coast Salish Hope and Health event.
’Caps players and guest coaches organized drills and games for First Nations youths on a sunny day at Beban Park’s Gyro Youth Sports Fields.
“It’s always a good time to have fun,” said Gershon Koffie, Whitecaps midfielder. “It’s not like getting three points, it’s not like a league game. It’s the best time to have fun with the kids … I love hanging out with them.”
He said the children brought “really good energy” to the field, and said it was going to help him in his next game.
Neither Koffie, who is from Ghana, nor his teammate Kendall Waston, from Costa Rica, ever got to rub shoulders with professional soccer players when they were boys.
“Never in my life. I only [saw] professional players through the TV,” Waston said. “I would have wished to have this opportunity, but now that I am in this position, I like to have fun with these little kids.”
A few hours isn’t a lot of time to teach specific soccer skills, so the Whitecaps were more concerned with interacting with the kids and providing inspiration.
“At this age, everything is fun…” Waston said. “The best thing is they have fun and love the sport.”
For those children who dream of becoming professional soccer players, that’s how it starts, Koffie said, with a love for the game.
“You cannot be perfect in something if you don’t love it,” he said. “They’re very young right now to choose what they want in the future, but you can always see your potential and if you love it, you have to love it with everything you’ve got. And I can see most of them are going to make it.”