Soccer pitch perfect for First Nation youth

Some area First Nations youth have discovered a positive new passion: soccer.

Recently the News-Optimist received a tip about the involvement of Wade Favel, a local player from Poundmaker Cree Nation, in a soccer tournament in Saskatoon.

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The tournament was the Saskatoon World Cup held May 16-20 at the SaskTel Sports Centre. The competition featured local players from around the province, playing on teams representing the countries of their heritage.

Wade was one of a few First Nations participants from the area playing for the under-13 “First Nations” team. The team actually goes by the name Beardy’s Native Sons, but played under the “First Nations” name at this tournament. 

Wade has been involved in soccer on the Poundmaker soccer team and has won provincials twice with them. He also plays in the Battlefords Youth Soccer under-13 league.

Favel, who attends North Battleford Comprehensive High School, was selected for the Beardy’s Native Sons roster along with others from Poundmaker and Sweetgrass. Another student from NBCHS, Max Grubbe, also competed.

The team did not do as well as hoped at the Saskatoon World Cup, losing to Argentina 12-0, Portugal 8-0 and Spain 12-2. But it was a chance to play high-level competition, and both his parents saw larger benefits to the whole experience.    

Wade’s father, Gregory Tootoosis, and his mother, Arlene Tootoosis, were both athletic in their younger days; Gregory was an up and coming hockey player before being injured in an automobile accident.

They said Poundmaker has a long history of soccer participation and interest, and has produced top athletes.

Arlene particularly wanted Wade to go into sports because she knew it “would keep out of trouble.” As a social worker she knew about the risks to First Nations youth from drugs and alcohol.

His father Gregory had another motivation. He wanted his son to get away from playing video games, which he saw as a particularly bad influence on Wade as well as other young people.

“I’m trying to get other teenagers involved in sport instead of this gaming thing – buying Fortnite, buying these crazy games they play constantly,” he said.

Now, when Wade plays video games, they’re soccer games.

“He gets all his trick shots, his fancy moves from those games,” said Gregory. “He’s pretty serious about soccer.”

Both parents say they are proud of Wade and want others to know how beneficial involvement in soccer has been for all of them. They credit coaches such as Preston Baptiste at Poundmaker as well as Kelly Villeneuve with Battlefords Youth Soccer for supporting Wade in his soccer development.

Arlene sent this note: “My intent for Wade is to show him he can reach his goals through the game of soccer. Successes, discipline, time management to minimize online gaming … anger management and hope. These are skills that he can use in his other aspects of his life. 

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