I moved to Toronto in January 2008. Over the past five years I have been involved in helping Toronto Soccer Connection develop into a thriving multicultural group with almost 600 members. The group organizes free friendly soccer games for men and women in Toronto who want to enjoy the beautiful game. The key values of the group are as follows: 1) RESPECT others. Be passionate but know the limits. 2) BE HONEST & PLAY FAIR 3) EVERYONE PLAYS no matter the skill level 4) SMILE & HAVE FUN. This post highlights the achievements of a fantastic group of friends with a passion for soccer.
The first team that brought several key members together was Oasis FC. This team was formed by Oasis Dufferin Community Center who do fantastic work to help the local community. The power of soccer to unite different nations was already evident with players from Europe, North America, South America and a strong African contingent including our legendary goal keeper. Oasis began to develop into a competitive team competing in the Toronto Services Soccer league, cash prize tournaments and in friendly games against Zimbabwe All Stars, among others. We quickly realized that soccer could be used as a powerful tool to raise money for charities and the friendly soccer games at Oasis’s annual Run, Walk and Play event helped to draw the crowds and raise funds for the community center.
An important stage in the development of Toronto Soccer Connection was the formation of a Co-ed 6-a-side team. The original team which brought many players together was called CCBR. Yes, I know it sounds like a bank but it is named after the research institute at the University of Toronto which many of us work at.
Several Co-ed 6-a-side teams became associated with Toronto Soccer Connection including Chimera FC and eventually the highly successful Grasshoppers FC. Along the way many championships and tournaments were won. We even won a frozen turkey in a Christmas tournament!
Through our Japanese connections in the group we were fortunate to be able to play with the Japanese Football Club of Toronto (JFT). This highly talented and well organized group of players was an inspiration for Toronto Soccer Connection. Importantly they create a tremendous sense of respect, friendliness and fair play, values which Toronto Soccer connection strives to uphold.
Following the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 JFT organized an annual Kick it for Japan fundraising tournament at Soccerworld, Toronto. Grasshoppers United were fortunate to compete in the tournament and win it two years in a row!
As Toronto Soccer Connection increased in size and new friendships were formed we decided that we should host our own fundraising events. In July 2010 I celebrated my 29th birthday by hosting a 12-hour soccerthon. The event was highly successful with great attendance and we raised over $400 for Kick4Life. This fantastic charity uses soccer to transform the lives of disadvantaged children in Lesotho. This includes health education and HIV prevention, voluntary HIV testing, life-skills development, mentoring, support towards education & employment, and the chance to enjoy sport.
To raise additional funds for Kick4Life we took advantage of the Toronto District School Board priority school’s initiative which promotes the after school use of schools by community groups. Toronto Soccer Connection has participated in this program for the past three years and hosts friendly pick-up games at Ryerson community school throughout the long winter months.
As 2012 draws to a close it has been another exciting year for Toronto Soccer Connection. Members of our group have been involved in coaching four to six year old children with Royal York and Eglinton soccer clubs. This was a very rewarding experience and hopefully we will be nurturing Canada’s stars of the future.
Meanwhile in addition to defending our Kick it for Japan championship Grasshoppers United won another championship at Jesse Ketchum with a hard fought final on a cold and wet October afternoon.
Finally we continued our fundraising efforts but organizing our first tournament on at hot day in May at Winston Churchill park. On the day of the champions league final, which saw Chelsea beat Bayern Munich we held our own equally competitive and highly entertaining competition with six teams competing for the trophy. The tournament was a great success raising over $400 for a healthy eating snack program at St. Catherine School, Toronto.
Thank you to everyone involved for making this all possible and creating so many wonderful memories. Enjoy the beautiful game and I hope you have a great new year.
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