Last August, over 50 young soccer players from the Gitxsan First Nation attended a tournament on Seabird Island. It was the beginning of what may be the trip of a lifetime as they have qualified for a competition in Hawaii this August.
The tournament included members of the NIFA, a soccer association for Indigenous players that has been around for over 25 years and has produced players who have gone on to win at the international level.
The group was formed by Dano Thorne of the Cowichan First Nation and has become a very positive influence for Indigenous youth in Canada.
At this point, according to Terrilyn Good, the secretary/treasurer of the group from Gitxsan, about 27 local players have committed to the Hawaii contest and have been busily trying to raise funds for the trip.
“Our next activity is an all-clan feast,” she said.
The feast will be at the Gitsegukla Community Center on April 8 at 2 p.m. and will include song and dance performances by several groups. She said that the feast is a one-time event but that they would most likely plan for a send-off event closer to the travel date.
Everyone is welcome to the feast and donations are most welcome.
“It is the first time our Gitxsan youth have had the opportunity to attend something like this. There are now 27 players signed up to go. Originally we had over 50 youth but some couldn’t make the time and financial commitment, ” she said.
Good said that the players range in ages from seven to 19 years of age. The coaches are chosen by the NIFA organization.
While she was not sure of the history behind the Hawaii event, Good said, “We got word about it last summer and went to the try outs.”
The expense of the trip has been a difficulty but the group has been working hard to raise the necessary funds.
“All our efforts are driven by volunteer parents. We’ve been working hard but still have a ways to our goal, ” she said.
“I know my children are very excited for the trip. They’re playing on different teams, U12 and U8. They’re on different teams with different age groups,” she said.
The teams will be made up of NIFA players from around the province.
According to the Gitxsan soccer group, many benefits that could come from such an endeavor. It is felt that there could be a huge improvement in areas such as self-esteem, confidence, team building and many more. These positive influences could lead to lifestyle and mental health changes that can benefit all involved for the rest of their lives.