Fort Liard kicks up to selection

New game variation a challenge for soccer athletes aiming for Arctic Winter Games

April Hudson | ACHO DENE KOE/FORT LIARD
September 10, 2015
Fort Liard youth play soccer outside the recreation centre. More than 30 young people are getting ready for the upcoming season. - April Hudson/NNSL photo

Fort Liard youth play soccer outside the recreation centre. More than 30 young people are getting ready for the upcoming season. – April Hudson/NNSL photo

As summer cools off in the Deh Cho, Fort Liard’s soccer stars are just warming up.

The community’s soccer program is now six years old and has drawn in up to 35 athletes for the 2015-16 season. Of those, around 20 players are readying themselves for the Arctic Winter Games.

The Games are scheduled to be held in Greenland next year from March 5 to 12. The NWT Soccer Association (NWTSA) will be holding regional development camps in five communities from Oct. 2 to 4 in preparation: Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells and Inuvik.

According to the NWTSA, those camps will act as the preliminary selection process for athletes wanting to attend the Arctic Winter Games and will be followed by territorial tryouts for those who pass. They will be overseen by one of five appointed Arctic Winter Games coaches and supported by community-based coaches, all of whom will form regional selection committees.

The NWTSA has five age categories in place: female intermediate, junior and juvenile and male junior and juvenile. For juvenile categories, players must be born in 2002 or later, while junior must be born in 2000 or later and intermediate must be born in 1998 or later.

Roslyn Firth, Fort Liard’s recreation co-ordinator, said in order for players to make the Games, they have to learn and practise another form of soccer known as futsal.

To that end, she has recruited James Duntra, a Fort Liard youth who recently travelled to England to take part in the Manchester Soccer Clinic, to provide futsal training to other local players.

“I don’t want our players to go to the camp without having at least had some practise and knowledge of futsal,” she said. “I’ve asked (Duntra) to research the rules and regulations around futsal and do a soccer clinic with our players this month, so they will be more prepared for the regional trials.”

While traditional indoor soccer allows players to kick the soccer ball off walls, Futsal uses a smaller, less-bouncy ball and requires players play within tighter bounds.

“There has to be much more control of the ball. The ball has to be kept under control and there’s some real straightforward passing,” Firth explained. “We’re going to start practising as soon as we can.”

A date for Duntra’s soccer clinic had not been announced by press time.

While players gear up for the Games, they are also preparing for the upcoming Elks Outdoor Soccer Tournament in Hay River from Sept. 18 to 20.

“They’re preparing to play outdoor soccer at that time. They already play indoor soccer and now they have to know how to play futsal. Each one, of course, is slightly different,” Firth said.

“Since we’ve built our soccer program, now we have a real soccer culture here in Fort Liard.”

The community’s soccer players include youth between the ages of 12 and 19. Firth said she has often noticed Fort Liard having the largest contingent of soccer players when they play regional games.

“The enthusiasm for soccer here is just huge. The kids play recreationally at least five nights per week in our gym. It’s a huge part of our lives,” she said. “It’s a really healthy activity and it’s inspiring the kids to attend school regularly because that’s one of the requirements for them to be going to the tournaments.”

Registration for the NWTSA’s selection camps closes Sept. 25.