Young soccer players had a chance this week to learn some skills and drills, but mostly, to get inspired.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC soccer team held a series of events in Nanaimo Tuesday through Thursday as part of Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services’ KL Cares and Kicks program.
Whitecaps players and Vancouver Island University’s soccer program led First Nations children through drills and games Wednesday at Merle Logan Field.
Whitecaps player Darren Mattocks said he enjoys participating in the camps because he says he’s a big kid himself.
“We were all young players once, so it’s really good to come out and see the youngsters,” said the 21-year-old striker from Jamaica. “I was once their age and hoping for big things and now I’m in this position, I would do anything for the kids and anything for the community because Vancouver and in general B.C. have been fantastic to the Vancouver Whitecaps.”
The youths had a chance to practise and play with the ’Caps and get autographs and advice. With Vancouver’s Major League Soccer club having a strong season at 9-7-7, the Whitecaps are becoming a bigger deal.
“Everyone loves winners and once you’re winning, everyone can jump on that bandwagon and that’s really fantastic,” Mattocks said.
Whitecaps forward Camilo Sanvezzo said he thinks the sport is growing in B.C.
“This is good for us because they’ve supported us. Every time B.C. Place is full, this is good,” said the 24-year-old Brazilian. “This season we’re doing well and even the support is getting bigger because we know we can win, we can play for playoffs.”
And they tried to get the message across to the young players that they, too, can achieve their goals on the soccer pitch.
Mattocks, addressing a group of children in between drills on the new turf surface at Merle Logan, said kids in B.C. have better soccer facilities than he grew up with, so they have an opportunity to take advantage.
“They can do it, just as we have done,” he said. “They could be where we are and even further.”
Sanvezzo said he saw some good talent at the camp, but said it takes a lot of training and a lot of focus to be a professional soccer player.
A few hours assisting on the pitch isn’t much time, but it’s enough to offer a bit of Whitecaps wisdom.
“We try to say that soccer is good for everyone,” Sanvezzo said. “You don’t need to just play professional, it’s good for life.”