VANCOUVER, BC – There’s a reason they call soccer the “beautiful game.”
Well, there are actually several.
Part of it has to do with the game itself – how graceful it can be, its fluidity, and so on. But there’s more to it than that. As WFC2 head coach Alan Koch put it: “It brings people together.”
And that’s certainly what it did on Thursday, when WFC2 made a special visit to Andy Livingstone Park to participate in a Vancouver Street Soccer practice ahead of Sunday’s WFC2 home opener.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in your life,” Koch said. “You can come here together and play a game and really appreciate what the game is about. Throw a group people out there with one ball and we’re all passionate about the same thing. It’s great what the game can do.”
Vancouver Street Soccer is a volunteer-run organization that aims to enhance the lives of the homeless, individuals who feel marginalized within their communities, and/or those who are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions, through soccer and inclusivity.
Currently, Vancouver Street Soccer holds practices three times a week. Five WFC2 players took part in Thursday’s session – Canadians Daniel Haber and Giuliano Frano, Dutch centre back Sem De Wit, Spanish midfielder Victor Blasco, and English centre back Elliot Green.
Talk about bringing people together.
Koch, a native of South Africa, and club ambassador Carl Valentine were also in attendance.
“You can see there are smiles on our guys faces,” Koch said. “There are smiles on the players that are playing too. It’s a great, enjoyable experience for everyone involved.”
Certainly, it was an enjoyable experience for Patrick Oleman.
Oleman joined Vancouver Street Soccer back in 2009 – around the same time that he “quit hard drugs.” After a few years in the program, he ended up giving up cigarettes and alcohol too.
“It gave me a place to sweat all that out,” said Oleman, a member of the ‘Caps ops crew who captained Team Canada at the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Brazil. “It makes it easy to show up when there are a lot of people encouraging you.”
There are many stories like that of Oleman.
“We know a few individuals who were on the street homeless,” said part-time coach/volunteer Adrian Walsh. “They arrived here high on their first day. Now, their lives have totally changed through soccer.”
A beautiful game, indeed.
WFC2 (2W-0L-0D) host Sacramento Republic on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT in their home opener at UBC Thunderbird Stadium. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster or at whitecapsfc.com/wfc2/tickets, or if you're an MLS season ticket member redeem your vouchers through Account Manager.