By Elaine O’Connor
It was hard not to trip over a soccer fan — or ball — at Vancouver’s David Lam Park on Saturday, as supporters decked out in blue foam hats practised kicks on the sidelines at the Steve Nash Foundation Showdown in Downtown charity game.
The match, featuring the Victoria-raised Phoenix Suns point guard, was held to raise money for kids, so it was fitting that the game was also played by kids.
Sixteen lucky amateur soccer players from Lower Mainland youth leagues got the chance to compete on the same soccer pitch with one of B.C.’s top home-grown athletes in front of an estimated 5,000 fans.
Sam Andalis, a 10-year-old player from Coquitlam, summed up the opportunity in one word: “Wow.”
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “I’m just going to stay focused.”
“It gets me inspired to watch people play who are older,” said 10-year-old Jasmine Campbell of the New Westminster Tigers.
“To me, playing soccer in front of a lot of people is practically my dream. I’m happy to be here.”
“I think it’s cool,” New Westminster Tigers forward Sarah McCarthy said of Nash’s charity work. “He’s a famous basketball player. He’s really good,” the 11-year-old said.
Her advice to Nash as he headed out to the field to compete in a sport he’s not known for? “Stay in position and stay focused.”
The kids did just that. At the end of their match, the blue team had won 1-0, despite Nash offering assistance to the opposing team.
It’s been a busy weekend for Nash.
On Friday, he was in his hometown to receive an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Victoria. Friday night, the Nash Foundation hosted a $1,500-a-plate fundraiser dinner at Kitsilano’s DB Bistro.
Saturday, the Yaletown game — sponsored by B.C. Hydro Power-Smart and Coast Capital Savings and peopled with NBA stars and Whitecaps players, including Nash’s brother, team captain Martin Nash — kicked off at 3 p.m.
Saturday night, the foundation held a second fundraiser, a $100-cover-charge after-game party at the Pop Opera club downtown.
All the funds raised this weekend go to support the foundation’s efforts in B.C., specifically its B.C. Grants initiative. Since 2005, it’s handed out more than $100,000 per year to non-profit youth organizations across the province.
The foundation also supports youth programs in Africa, with its Gulu Youth Centre for Sport, Culture and Reconciliation in Uganda, and in the U.S. with an early childhood education initiative in Arizona, among others.
And, of course, Nash supports the kids. Running off the field from her game, an enthusiastic Jasmine Campbell said: “It was really fun. He gave us good support. When we ran past, he kept saying, ‘Good job.’”
To assist the Steve Nash Foundation, visit stevenash.org.
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