By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Downtown Vancouver played host to a one-of-a-kind sports spectacle on Saturday afternoon, as The Steve Nash Foundation's 'Showdown in Downtown' took place in Yaletown's David Lam Park.
Members of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC men's team and Residency program took on current and former stars from the world of basketball and soccer in support of The Steve Nash Foundation's BC Grants initiative, as well as other local charities like the Whitecaps Foundation and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society. "I started The Steve Nash Foundation because I feel a sense of community on our planet and a sense of responsibility for one another," said two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash. "I thought I could achieve this by getting involved and helping to bring people together."
A beautiful late summer's day greeted the large crowd that attended Saturday's fundraising event, with the showpiece of the day being an eight-a-side soccer match that involved the Phoenix Suns point guard and his celebrity 'Team Coast Capital Savings' in blue versus a squad consisting of Whitecaps men's team and Residency players, who formed 'Team BC Hydro Power Smart' in white.
Soccer and sports fans alike saw some familiar faces in the Team Coast Capital Savings line-up. They included French World Cup and European Championship winner Youri Djorkaeff, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Baron Davis, and top NBA draft pick Hasheem Thabeet of the Memphis Grizzlies. Former Whitecaps players also made up Nash's team. They included current Whitecaps physiotherapist Chris Franks, former Vancouver 86ers captain Rick Celebrini and his brother Randy, and former 'Caps striker Davide Xausa. Current Whitecaps keeper Jay Nolly played in goal for the team in blue.
Those in attendance on Saturday also got to see current and future Whitecaps players in action as Team BC Hydro Power Smart, with men's team head coach Teitur Thordarson starting eight players from the club's full-time Residency program. They included goalkeeper Simon Thomas, defenders Keithy Simpson and Lucas Sweda, midfielders Kevin Cobby, Ethan Gage, Bobby Jhutty, and Russell Teibert, and striker Randy Edwini-Bonsu. "Our Residency kids are really good, so it's a lot of fun to give them a chance to come out here and show what they can do in front of the crowd today," said Nash.
There was a party-like atmosphere in and around David Lam Park, with the Showdown Street Festival also giving event sponsors and local non-profit organizations the chance to educate and empower people about getting involved in their community.
As for the 'Showdown' itself, Team Coast Capital Savings' experience shone through in a 10-5 victory over Team BC Hydro Power Smart. The eight-a-side match was played in a very good spirit, with Nash's blue squad jumping out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Djorkaeff and Nash. Residency youngster Joseph-Claude Gyau replied for the team in white before the 7-foot, 3-inch Thabeet dazzled the crowd, as well as surprise his opponents, by scoring a fine third goal for Nash's team. Moments later, a well-struck shot by Teibert ensured it was 3-2 to the blue squad at the break.
The halftime entertainment included members of soccer freestyle jugglers 'Mad Skillz', while local youth players contested a mini 'Showdown' game, with Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi presiding over the contest as match referee.
At the start of the second half, Nash's father John showed his soccer skills were in fine order when he appeared for the blue team. Then after Djorkaeff had inadvertently put the ball into his own net for to make it 3-3, Nash's team pulled away from their opponents in white to win the contest. The highlight of the second half was Djorkaeff beating Thomas with a long-distance strike to make it 9-4.
Though the scoreline was a bit lopsided in favour of Nash's team, everyone in attendance enjoyed the quality of soccer that was played by both sides and the event as a whole. Residency youngster Sweda felt privileged to take part in Saturday's fundraising friendly. "Today was amazing for me," said the Burnaby, BC, native. "To be out here with these superstars from basketball and soccer was really great. I wasn't expecting to play today, but it's great to have the chance to do so."
Following a highly distinguished career that included spells in France, Italy, Germany, and England, Djorkaeff was full of praise for some of the young talent he played against on Saturday. "I was impressed by the young Whitecaps players," said the former France international. "It's important for the future of soccer in Canada and here in Vancouver that you try and improve young players. I thought they showed me some good things today."
Since 2005, The Steve Nash Foundation's BC Grants initiative has contributed more than $100,000 annually to youth-focused non-profit organizations throughout British Columbia that foster children’s development by addressing underlying conditions of poverty, medical need, and restricted access to those support systems that contribute to their well-being. Click here for more information about The Steve Nash FoundationClick here to learn more about the Whitecaps Foundation