Tag Archives: soccer

ashes to ashes

‘pick three items, lucas’.

he was already up off the couch and heading towards the kitchen.  this is dave at his best.

after street soccer on sunday night, dave came over to hang out for a bit.  he’s not living in the best of neighborhoods at the moment and as much time spent away, the better.  we debate whether or not it’s better than him living at the shelter.  the shelter was recently shot up.  7 rounds into the front of the building in a drive-by.  we side with his present location but have started apartment hunting again.

dave is an incredible cook.  everything he has ever made me to eat has been nothing less than amazing.  everything.  and he can do it with next to nothing in the kitchen.  he thrives off of making tasty dishes with as little as possible.  i think its his game.  it’s a fun game when you’re the one eating good food.

dave teaches me a bit about cooking.  he believes cooking is really easy and attempts to convince me of his truth.  after 10 minutes im pretty sure i can cook just as well as him.  power of persuasion takes another one down.

1o  minutes later we are eating a delicious meal.  kat and i compliment dave as we scarf down his recent creation.  he humbly brushes it off likes it’s nothing.  he picks up my guitar and starts playing some of his original licks.  he’s a good musician, too.

good times.  community at it’s finest.

dave has been making it more of a habit to come hang out.  i like that.  in the past, dave would disappear from months on end.  when you work with guys on the street it plays with your mind when your friends disappear for a while.  you dont know if they’re dead or alive.

the longer you do not hear from them, the deeper your fears become.

i hope dave keeps this habit up.


i lost another one of my friends back in east van last week.  wally had a lot of health problems when i first met at first united, constantly in and out of the hospital.  he had a very gentle spirit about him and a calming voice.  he always looked on the bright side of things, aware of but not willing to settle for the darker side of reality.

every time i asked wally how he was doing, he always answered ‘copasetic’.  i had to look up the word in the dictionary to figure out what he meant.  completely satisfactory.  when i pressed further what he meant, he told me that no matter what life threw at him, he wasn’t going to get too high on life nor would he go too low.  everything has a purpose, he would tell me.

i think he found great comfort in that.  i do too.

wally was another member of the first nations crew that spent their time drinking rubbing alcohol and mouth wash.  im not sure if it was the alcoholism that killed him or the cancer that ate away at his body.  im not sure what’s worse.

i’m pretty sure i could write a big, long post about wally that i did about africa but i don’t feel like doing that today.  i’m going to keep these memories inside for now.


lent started today.  happy ash wednesday.

i decided to give up losing any more friends for 40 days.  hopefully this works.

your prayers are appreciated.


you’ll be missed, wally.  dearly missed..


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i just woke up from an unscheduled nap and felt compelled to blog.  nothing in particular in mind to write about but just a desire to put something down.  ill just start writing and see where it takes me.

im looking around my room right now for something to trigger a recent memory during the past week that i would enjoy writing about.  my cat sits on the old trunk in my living room licking himself as he so often likes to do.  the large dump of snow this weekend has dimmed the light from entering in through the small basement windows in my apartment, as if it werent dark enough down here.  my plants are drooping from either too little sunlight or water.  its probably both.

my living room is not going to be a good source of inspiration, but im not getting up from my chair so my inspiration will have to come from elsewhere.

one of my players quit on his team last night at street soccer.  it made me really mad.  madder than a mad hatter mad.  ok, maybe not that mad but it certainly irked me more than i was prepared for.  its one thing to quit at something when it only affects you (ex. tennis, track and field, etc) but its much different when you’re quitting lets down others/teammates.

in my last year of university basketball i hurt my back pretty bad.  for a while it was a struggle to simply get out of bed and get changed.  putting on socks was sometimes a 20 minute endeavour.  i rehabbed everyday trying to get my back better.  i saw the physio daily, the massage therapist every other day and followed a yoga dvd in my living room twice a day trying to get back into shape.  eventually my back started to respond and i was able to begin playing again, albeit, still with a considerable amount of pain.

at the christmas break my parents sat me down and had some candid talks with me about the health of my back.  as much progress as i had made, i wasnt close to 100% and every practice or game i played moving forward would threaten the health of my body for the future.  i knew they wanted me to shut it down and end my senior year prematurely.  the thought was unthinkable, no matter how much the pain in my body said otherwise.

my mom asked me if i wanted to play sports with my kids one day.  if i kept going the way i was going, she insisted, the likelihood of me watching from a wheelchair became increasingly more likely.

no pun intended but that was the straw the broke the camels back: my basketball career was officially over.

i cried.  it may seem silly to some, crying over a game, but that game had been my life, day in and day out, for over a decade.

sure, i had a medical reason to not go back and finish out the season with my team but it still felt like i quit on them and i hated that feeling.

i really wish things had been different.  not a day goes by that i dont wish that.

does everything really happen for a reason or is that just something we tell ourselves to make us feel better?

my cat is still licking himself.  now hes scratching his face with his hind leg.  i wish i were that flexible.  am i turning into one of those really weird people who give play by plays on their cats?  this may be a new low.  its like he knows im writing about him.  he just stopped and is staring at me now.  maybe he can read my mind.  maybe my cat has telepathy!  maybe this is the weirdest and all-over-the-place blog i have ever written.

im not about to go back through the last 3 years of blogging to figure that out.





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sunday recap

sunday was quite the day.

it started off with a huge dump of snow.  a good 8-10 inches of snow covered everything and more was falling from the sky.  walking to church in the morning was a bit of a trudge but it was a nice trudge.

kat’s friend had asked us to come check out her church some time so this sunday was that some time.  the community church was located inside a small elementary school gym in the south end of the city.  the new zealand guy that lead music was incredibly gifted, not to mention the other two musicians.  the pastor preached for 20 minutes and then decided the sermon was over so they could pray for one of the campus leaders who attended the church.

ive never seen that before.  heck, im not sure ive heard/seen many preachers who deliver their message in less than 40 minutes.  but he got his point across and thats all that matters.  i told him so after the service was over.  humble guy with a very missional heart and love of community.

my kind of guy.

we finally decided to get bigger nets for street soccer.  for the last year and half we have been playing, both indoor and outdoor soccer with two small nets.  they are about two and half feet high and three feet wide, shaped like a semi-circle and weigh next to nothing so most hard shots knock it back most of the time.

not anymore.

new nets werent the only new additions to street soccer this sunday.  nick, the captain of the winning team of our last street soccer tournament, has been coming out to play with us lately.  we have been talking with him about coaching our guys and hes shown considerable interest.  nick is an incredibly talented player with the natural ability to connect with others and build positive relationships.  he also has a non-profit business that uses those two gifts to their maximum potential (no, nick is not paying me for this ad, haha).

anyways, nick brought a few friends out to play with him, and those friends also invited a few friends so we had 7 new international players come out to play with us.

what a difference in play!

our guys got a show on sunday night.  some of the guys that came out did things with a soccer ball that they have never seen done before, im sure.  one of the guys from morocco, an international doctor doing research at dal, mesmerized guys with his style of play including yours truly.

guys were loving the faster style of play so much that we went past 8pm, which we hardly ever do.  when we stopped around 830 guys were still wanting to keep playing.

we have come a long way.  ha!

there are a lot of international student, immigrants and refugees that call halifax home (if not just temporarily) and the one thing they all usually have in common is their love for soccer (football to them).  hopefully now that we have so many talented players and community builders on board, we can begin bringing street soccer into the  poorer immigrant and refugee communities in the great halifax area.

i dont want to count my chickens before they have hatched but i love it when a great idea comes together!

a special thanks to my friend, brother and partner with halifax street soccer, valentin.  you rock, dude!  couldnt have done this without you.

night, world.


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dave’s help

i was late for sunday supper again.  those mid-afternoon sunday naps always get me.  its not that i have to be there before sunday supper starts but i enjoy catching up with some of my street friends that come to take in the community meal together.  regardless of the food placed in front of me (which is usually pretty tasty), its always a good time with interesting conversations.

i hadnt seen or talked with leonard in quite a while, but there he was, face buried in a hearty serving of pasta as i came in the doors.  he beckoned me over and i sat down across from him.

‘i made myself almost $30 in bottles today!’


leonard’s good hand is occupied with his digger (fork) and goes to high-five with his crippled arm.  theres not much of a clap but it doesnt seem to bother either of us and we laugh.  oh man, do i laugh when im with leonard!

i ask him where he has been and why i havent seen him around.  hes been hiding.  leonard gets bullied at some of the hangout spots in the city.  for the life of me i cant see why aside from him simply being an easy target, with a bad leg and arm he has had since birth.  hes a very quiet and humble migmaw man who usually keeps to himself, though has no problem holding conversation with anyone who wants to talk.

i dont like bullies.  when i was in grade two i was bullied by an older boy named yohan or something like that.  he never had the satisfaction of beating me up but for two years he chased me home from school and sent enough threats through other kids to make me live in fear.  hopefully yohan gave up his bullying ways.

leonard doesnt want to tell me who is bullying him.  he doesnt want it to get worse.  i try to tell him that i can help fix the situation but he wont budge.  he tells me its his battle to fight and he will fight it alone.  im not about to argue with my friend whom i havent seen in a long time.  i tell him to come over to my place later and grab a bag full of bottles.  a big grin comes over his face and says ‘thanks’.
street soccer starts.  we have tons of people out again.  we field 7 teams for the second sunday night in a row.  after coach val leads the players through some warm ups, we are ready to play.

i decide to give my ankle a try and put myself with dave, paul and nick.  dave was one of our original players in the beginning.  he sees the game better than anyone else that comes out to play.  unfortunately the street life has a strong pull on his life.  when he is stronger and winning the battle, he is usually at street soccer.  when he is weaker, he is hard to find.  right now hes healthy and engaged in street soccer every week.

dave was my first friend from the street here in halifax so he has a special place in my heart.

paul was one of our finalists when we were deciding who to send to mexico city for the homeless world cup.  skinny as a rake, long legs that start at his neck and a huge passion for the game.  we finally got paul a pair of shorts so he doesnt have to wear his jeans anymore.  he is self-conscious about his skinny legs and begins to balk at wearing his new shiny shorts.  i tell him my legs are skinny too and that he and i can anchor team chicken legs.  hes in and on go the shorts.

it was nicks first time to street soccer.  nick looked to be about 19 or 20, full of energy and what appeared to be a mental handicap.  when it came time to play 3-on-3, nick wasnt sure he wanted to play.  he said everyone moved so fast and he didnt think he could keep up.

he was right.  the games did go pretty fast and he had a tough time keeping up with the action but he played.  he played his little heart out, too.  he made mistakes but kept on playing.  after making a good pass to dave who was able to score, he celebrated by shooting his little arms up in the air as if he had just won a very important game.

maybe it was.  at least to him.

dave was like a big brother with nick.  he took him under his wing for the evening and coached him on little things he could do.  on the floor together, dave tried to get nick involved and encouraged him whether he failed or succeeded.  safe to say, dave made nicks night memorable.

while we usually cut games off at 8pm, the energy is high and no one wants to stop.  players are playing hard, teamwork is at a premium and everyone is getting better.

i think we may have to start playing more than one night a week.

after soccer, dave came out for all-you-can lasagna with a few of us.  i told him that i appreciated how great he was with nick.  he wouldnt hear anything of it, saying that helping nick out was what he was supposed to do.  he didnt feel he deserved anymore recognition than anyone else.  he was just being himself.

well, since you wouldnt take the ‘thank you’, dave, ill thank you here where everyone else can see your big heart.  thanks for making our little sports community that much better, dave.

just another sunday on the east coast.


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team play

you know when you lay down for a nap and its only suppose to be 30 minutes, 40 tops, and it turns into a 3 hour sleep?  well after church today i had me one of those naps. now because of that im wired and wide awake as the minute hands approaches a quarter to 3am.
this isnt going to be good for my insomnia..

i walked into the st andrews gymnasium just shortly after 5 tonight.  at 5 they begin serving the community dinner to the poor and homeless of the city.  tonight they had all the tables covered with red and green table clothes for christmas.  i noticed 6 new tables in the large room and faces ive never seen before.  the need for food among those below the poverty level continues to grow here.  these newly added tables and new faces are a silent reminder of that.

paul is the first one to me.

‘are we playing tonight?!’

last week when we canceled street soccer for the week paul was the most upset, or at the very least showed it the most.  his face physically dropped from a giant smile (that he usually wears) to a floor-rattling frown when i told him ‘no street soccer this week’.  some of our guys (paul especially) really look forward to this night together playing sports.  to some it may look like just a game with a round ball and small red nets, to others it means spending time with a community of friends doing something they love.

‘yes we are.’

big hug.  we are a group that loves to hug 🙂

other players get up out of their seats and make their way over.  informal team meeting happens.  more players asking about practice tonight followed by high fives and fist pumps.  i wish i was always this popular.

glen cant play because of a leg injury but decides to do color commentary from an elevated seat on the stage.  glen usually likes to give play-by-plays on the action, with an enthusiasm unmatched by most.  his stories are so seamlessly told along with his commentary that i dont notice the change overs.

‘what a great move by ryan!  that reminds me of the time i moved from east vancouver out to the mountains.  what a rough winter that was.  colder than the north pole, i swear!  i saw more snow that year than i bet you will ever see in your lifetime.  i hope it doesnt snow this winter.  i dont have any winter boots. i sold them for a silver toaster oven so i could touch up on my baking skills.. what a pass!’

thanks, glen.

lots of players out tonight.  some new faces and younger kids.  dylon, who i guess it about 9 or 10 years of age, played on my team with john, who has almost lost his big belly!  he looks so much healthier.  dylon came out with a couple of older at-risk youth who have been out to play a few times.  unsure and slightly hesitant at first, he eventually became comfortable in his new surroundings and played really well.

i get thinking about what type of background dylon comes from and what he goes home to.  foster home?  group home?   it makes me think that we need to do something more intentional with kids of younger ages as well.

fransisco, a relatively new player from chile, is out once again to play.  he has a smooth style to his game thats pretty graceful and fun to watch, even better to play alongside.  only problem is that his english isnt very good and my spanish isnt any better.  communication between us is quite difficult but we manage.  the guys love having him out and playing with him.  he seems quite grateful to have a community of people to belong to and we are more than happy to have him.

after the last game wraps up (a win for val’s skins team), everyone shakes hands and says their goodbyes.  some guys say a short goodbye and leave for home, while others hang out till the last possible moment, soaking in every last bit of time with their teammates and coaches as they can.

starving for community.

nets and balls are put away.  lights go off in the gym.  doors are locked up. couple more hugs shared between friends.

street soccer is over for another week,  and its now time for me to wrestle with the sandman.



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