1.) Can you give us a summary of what Vancouver Street Soccer is all about?
” The VSSL is composed of soccer teams of men and women who are homeless, have recently been homeless, or who are at risk for homelessness. Some of our players struggle with mental illness or addiction issues. Everyone is welcome to play regardless of skill level. Our focus is having a great time, but that includes working to build skills, fitness, teamwork, communication and confidence.
The VSSL is composed of teams from across British Columbia. In addition to a handful of teams in Vancouver, we also have teams from North Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Kelowna and the Comox Valley.
The VSSL has sent team members to join Team Canada where they have competed in Brazil, France and Mexico at the Homeless World Cup. This year we are proud to send two players to Poland for this year’s Homeless World Cup.”
2.) How was Vancouver Street Soccer started?
“The League was formed in 2010 when organizers from a variety of Metro Vancouver street soccer teams came together and started organizing tournaments together. Up until that time, there had been a number of tournaments and a variety of practices, but no formal or centralized organizing body. This year, the League formally incorporated for the first time as a non-profit organization.”
3.) You have been featured by the Whitecaps and had players visit in the past, what was that like?
“Amazing. Simple amazing. The Whitecaps have been wonderful champions for the League and for Street Soccer in general. Last year, they nominated Dr. Alan Bates (our first VSSL President) as their Community MVP. Since then, the Whitecaps have also donated practice jerseys to our teams and come by practices multiple times to kick the ball around with our players and to lead Q&A session with our players. This is a really big deal for both our players and volunteers. We are looking forward to continuing to grow our partnership with the Caps.”
4.) Have you been to the Homeless World Cup before? If so what was that like?
“I haven’t. Despite being involved in the organization since it was founded, I’ve had trouble taking the time off from my day job(s). If you’d like to speak with someone who has been there, let me know and we can easily arrange this.”
5.) If there was one thing you would like everyone to know about Vancouver Street Soccer, what would that be?
“Soccer can change lives. We’ve had players who have kicked some pretty awful habits and are now gainfully employed in a variety of sectors now. They’ve got stable housing and decent jobs (one player even works for the Whitecaps!) and I think a big part of the reason for this success is the community that we’ve all (both volunteers and players) built that’s super positive, healthy and supportive and all revolves around the beautiful game.”
6.) Are you a Whitecaps fan?
“Big fan. I hold season tickets in the Curva Collective.”
7.) Who is your favourite soccer player of all time?
“Carl Valentine. Not just because he’s a great player, but because he continues to be a huge champion for our organization. On the field these days, I love watching YP Lee.”
8.) What is your role as Director of Vancouver Street Soccer?
“I was recently elected as Vice President of the League. I am an assistant coach for Portland FC and prior to that was an informal director for both Portland FC and the VSSL.”
9.) You are the assistant coach of the Vancouver Street Soccer team Portland FC, can you tell us a little bit about the team?
“It is fantastic team. We’re led by our coach Fidel “The Spanish Hurricane” Vila. We’ve got some terrific talent and are one of the oldest teams in the League. The team was originally founded out of the Portland Hotel Society’s shelters. Many of our alumni have gone on to found their own teams (including Woodwards FC and Station Street FC), which are both teams based out of supportive housing developments in the Downtown Eastside.”
10.) What is your favourite soccer team of all time?
11.) What is it like being a part of a Vancouver Street Soccer team?
“A great feeling. It is really neat to be part of something that you believe in so much, which has so profoundly changed many lives. It’s also an incredible organization to be involved in because of the group of people who are involved. We’ve got some really terrific people who come from all sorts of backgrounds: medicine, non-profit work, communications, engineering, government as well as the soccer world. The great thing is when you blend all those talents, you get something pretty powerful.”
12.) How long have you been involved with Vancouver Street Soccer?
“Since the beginning.”
13.) For anyone who is interested in getting involved, whether it is as a player or to support the cause, what would be the best way to go about that?
“They can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . But probably the easiest way is to just come out to a practice. We practice every week Thursdays and Sundays at 10 AM at Andy Livingston Park (unless there is a tournament of some sort). Everyone is welcome and we’re always looking for new volunteers eager to get involved or who are willing to just kick the ball around.”