Soccer knows no language: Refugee children welcomed into Nova Scotia soccer community

By Alexa MacLean, Global News, December 22, 2017.

The first time they kicked a soccer ball may have been thousands of miles away from Nova Scotia, but now Syrian refugees have a new opportunity to play the “beautiful game.”

Like many youth, newcomers are ecstatic whenever they get an opportunity to kick the ball.

“Anything, anything about soccer, I don’t care,” 14-year-old Mohammad Abo Saloua said.

Abo Saloua is one of about two dozen youth who were part of a monthly pick-up soccer game organized through the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia [ISANS] and Soccer Nova Scotia.

“We do call them, the families and ask them if they want to come out. The response is immediately yes of course because soccer as we know, is a universal game and most of these children actually know about soccer,” said Abshiro Abdille, a client support worker with Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia.

Syrian newcomer youth get an opportunity to play soccer in Nova Scotia through equipment donations and monthly pick-up games.

Syrian newcomer youth get an opportunity to play soccer in Nova Scotia through equipment donations and monthly pick-up games. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

While the pick-up game is a monthly affair, once a year refugee youth have the opportunity to take home new gear through an annual soccer equipment drive.

“It’s the fourth time we’ve had kids out through Immigration Services Nova Scotia that are newcomers to Canada,” Jim Slaunwhite said, of the Halifax County United Soccer Club.

This year, the Halifax County United Soccer Club pitched in with donations ranging from cleats to shin pads.

Helping to ease a financial barrier to sport that some families may face.

“The neat thing about soccer is it knows no language and the best part is no matter where you’re from, you get a ball and a bunch of kids and it’s the best thing ever, it really is,” Slaunwhite said.

The program gives newcomers an opportunity to not only play the sport they love in their new home but also gives them a chance to be integrated into the community.

“Most of these kids went through things we cannot even imagine. Like fleeing from their own homes, coming to new countries and then coming to Canada and that’s a whole [lot of ] change for them. So, the only thing they are familiar with, is playing in the streets, wherever they come from. Back in Syria, back in Congo and so they have a unique connection with the game. That’s what makes it special for these kids to come out and play,” Abdille said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.