- BC Games
North Van to host Canadian Homeless Soccer Games
The North Shore Salvation Army Shields are gearing up to play against teams from across the country at the Canadian Homeless Soccer Games in North Van from May 28 to June 1 next year.
The first event of its kind in Canada, coach Charles MacGregor was instrumental in making the games happen.
He expects teams to bus from across B.C. and other provinces for the cup, which will be friendly with a good dose of competitiveness.
The Shields are stepping up their practices at John Braithwaite Community Centre to prepare.
"We don't ask questions here. It's all about just coming down and having fun," says MacGregor at the community centre, his second home.
"If they want to tell you something, they will tell you. Give them dignity and don't ask."
MacGregor, the Salvation Army's volunteer athletic coordinator, has coached the team for eight years and launched the North and West Van Homeless Men and Women Soccer Cup. Many of his players are recruited from the North Shore Lookout Shelter.
Playing for the Shields is more about teamwork than being the star player.
"Everyone gets a chance here. If we do have a really good player, then they will help the others," MacGregor tells The Outlook.
Flying players to other homeless cups has been expensive and limited participation. Last year one player was sent to Mexico and the year before to Paris.
But North Van hosting the Canadian Homeless Soccer Games means the whole team can join. Many games will be held at Kinsmen Field on Jones Avenue.
Soccer, unlike hockey and other sports, is low-cost. All you need is a ball and six or seven players, says MacGregor.
He's seen many team members' lives change for the better once they have the chance let loose and pass the ball around. Of those who have played for the Shields, 73 per cent have made lifestyle changes and 94 per cent have increase motivation to make improvements.
"Some players call this a sanctuary," says MacGregor of the community centre where they practice. "It's dry, safe and they can have showers after."