Thoughts from Two Free Footie Rookies

This year, Free Footie is excited to have Thomas Feth and Jessica Robb on board as journalists, photographers, and general story-collectors. This week, they tell the story of their very first time at Free Footie.

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Meet our Rookies

Jessica (Jessy) is a Journalism student at MacEwan University, and Thomas studies Political Science at the University of Alberta

Thomas: “…My first experience with Free Footie match-day was coloured by a quick exchange between a young boy and our program manager, Leah. Before any of the players, coaches, or parents had arrived, the downtown soccer field at Giovanni Caboto Park sat mostly empty…until a small but lively boy rode up to us with a few questions.’

"Is this Free Footie?” the boy asked from his bike.

…Leah answered that, yes, this was Free Footie.

The boy quickly responded, “is it too late to sign up?”

Unfortunately, yes, it was too late to sign up. “But talk to your teacher and sign up next year!” Leah answered.

…Right off the bat, the boy’s questioning told me two things about Free Footie. Number One: Free Footie was a big deal around here. Number Two: the kids in these neighbourhoods ache to be a part of it.’

‘About half an hour later, the empty field came to life. With the afternoon sun shining, a train of jubilant elementary school students in their new jerseys led by their teachers rounded a corner and quickly flooded their section of the field, kicking, running, practicing to prepare for their match.’

‘Next, families began to show, and even more teams flooded the field. One teacher led her students across the field with a beaming smile as she spoke loudly in French. Suddenly, the empty field was teeming with energy, excitement and action. Their spring season had been delayed due to flooded fields, but now it was time to play.”

Jessy: “I had no idea what I was getting myself into as I made my way over to Giovanni Caboto Park on Wednesday afternoon…’

‘With a camera bag slung over my shoulder and notepad in hand, I parked my car and followed the sound of laughter right over to the fields.’

‘What meetings and stories can’t prepare you for is the overwhelming amount of emotion that you feel on these soccer fields. Not only from players, but coaches and parents as well. Everyone is honestly just genuinely happy and excited to be there! Walking around you see coaches giving students pep talks, parents chasing run away soccer balls before they hit the busy street and, of course, an incredible number of kids, each sporting a new jersey paired with the biggest grin plastered across their face.’

‘The passion from the kids is palpable as they bolt around the field and cheer on their teammates, but it’s the passion from the teachers that really got me. Each teacher not only volunteers their after-school time to give these kids a safe, fun, and encouraging space to play a sport, they are also dedicated to making sure each kid has an opportunity to be part of the team. Ms. Lu from Norwood is a perfect example of this.”

Thomas: “Ms. Lu said, “Free Footie provides an opportunity for many children to become involved in something they never would have otherwise. Most of them have never played, or never will get to play, organized sports without this opportunity.”

Jessy: “While talking about one student in particular, Ms. Lu told us a story: this boy’s mother was having some problems with the registration process. After many failed registration attempts and many more visits from the distraught grade 4 boy, Ms. Lu offered her own time outside the school to teach the parents how to register so their son could play.’

‘She pointed him out to us as he tore up the field. The passion radiated from him. A boy of few words (Ms. Lu introduced us at half time) it was when we asked what his favorite position is to play that he lit up…Talking about the game really got him going.”

Ms. Lu and Ivan celebrate the first game of the Free Footie season!

Ms. Lu and Ivan celebrate the first game of the Free Footie season!

Thomas: “[His] ache to play is shared by many of the other kids in his classroom, his school, and his community, and his story is just one of many which moved me.’

‘Perhaps more than any other time, I saw how sport truly is a great unifying force. Soccer brings people from all walks of life together in extraordinary ways, and the kids of Free Footie,…,reflect this unity and the desire to be included.”

Jessy: “As a Free Footie rookie it’s easy for me to see, even after just one visit, that this is an important program. Not just for the kids, but for everyone involved. The time and energy put into Free Footie is honestly mind blowing, and everyone involved really cares about the success of the program. This passion is reflected on each participant’s face as they take over Giovanni Caboto Park on Wednesday afternoon. From parents, to teacher, to volunteers - and especially the players - it’s amazing to watch, and to be a part of.”

Look out for words from Thomas or Jessy (or maybe sometimes both) each week during our season! If you have a Free Footie story idea, let us know and we would love to help you tell it!