First Nations teams to play for pride, prizes

The Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre is putting on a major tournament, Nations Coming Together, from May 23-25.

Soccer will bring people together this month in Nanaimo.

The Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre is putting on a major tournament, Nations Coming Together, for First Nations adults and youths.

Mariah Robinson, tourney coordinator, said several other Vancouver Island communities host these sorts of events and said Nanaimo has the capacity host one, too.

“We’re wanting to really promote sportsmanship and building community and and healthy lifestyle,” she said.

The tournament offers cash prizes to attract teams and help them with travel costs. The champions in the men’s and women’s division win $1,500 each, and the most sportsmanlike teams get $1,000. Any profits from the event go to aboriginal youth soccer.

Robinson said she’s been playing in these sorts of tournaments since she was 12, and said there’s a lot of pride in taking the pitch.

“You’re representing your nation because all the teams are from small reserves or a compilation of these nations,” she said. “So playing for them and representing your community … there’s such a nation and tribal pride behind it.”

As of last week, 15 adult teams had registered as well as 20 youth teams in U7, U10 and U14 divisions. Games will go at Merle Logan Field and at Beban Park’s Gyro Youth Sports Fields, and depending on the final draw, Caledonia Park and Bowen West may also be utilized.

Robinson said there are plans to make Nations Coming Together into an even bigger event moving forward.

“We hope to grow in the future, to [make it] multi-sport and [add] a cultural festival to it so it can hopefully grow into a week-long event,” she said.

GAME ON … The tournament begins May 23. The youth division finals start at 3 p.m. May 24 at Merle Logan Field. On Sunday at Merle Logan, the women’s final is at 1 p.m. and the men’s final is at 3 p.m.