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This article was published 8/3/2020 (352 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While the Brandon University Bobcats women’s futsal team didn’t send the Healthy Living Centre crowd into a frenzy on Saturday, they had a group of Westman FC soccer players dreaming of their own chance to play on a stage like that one day.
After the Bobcats lost their Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference semifinal to the Université de Saint-Boniface Les Rouges to wrap up Saturday’s official slate of games, a group of Westman under-14 players in attendance for their team windup decided they would make their unofficial debuts on the big BU hard court.
The fans had all gone home, the referees had left the building but they left the game ball behind. The players saw their moment and took it. Seven girls teamed up on one side, and a few of the boys rounded out by a couple of guys in their mid-20s lined up across from them.
There was no scoreboard, sidelines or really any rules at all, just a whole lot of smiles and laughs. Even in ripped jeans and street shoes, the kids gave their parents — and a few Bobcats who stuck around — quite the show with no shortage of terrific passing and some gorgeous goals.
The game went on for a solid hour and a half without a break.
"We started just kicking the ball around, and eventually we got in a game," said Westman FC striker Nik Cumming, whose step-brother Jesse Roziere coached the men’s futsal team to a second-place finish.
"The Bobcats inspire me. I come and watch pretty much all their games."
Cumming has also had chances to learn from Roziere’s Bobcats, attending morning sessions at the HLC to hone his skills with some ultra-committed athletes. The sessions start at 6:45 a.m.
"It’s hard, especially at my age," Cumming said with a laugh, adding that he hopes the effort translates into a chance to keep playing after high school.
"It’d feel good if we could get up there, and get to that level of play. It takes hard work. Definitely hard work and lots of commitment."
Perhaps no one else on the court for that fun, frantic futsal game matches the commitment of Flin Flon’s Shanti Church. The outside midfielder/striker makes the seven-hour trip south to the Wheat City to play for Westman FC as a guest player at times throughout the season, and has quite the role model in her big sister and Bobcats’ all-conference forward Hasana Church.
Hasana played her final game as a Bobcat Saturday, and was quickly surrounded by Shanti and the other Westman FC players who clearly admired the five-foot-three third-year’s effort, playing just about the entire 50-minute contest.
"I’ve always looked up to her my whole life. I always wanted to be just like her, and I was thinking if I could start earlier, it’d be better," Shanti said of her choice to play with Westman, on top of her regular recreational games back home.
"(Hasana) inspires me more because she comes home in the summertime and we go to the field quite a bit. She teaches me all the things she learned in the previous year, and she makes me feel like I’ll get better with her help."
She, too, is excited about the possibility of wearing Bobcat blue and yellow after the championship weekend.
"I’m hoping to be able to play here one day, and if I’d be able to, that’ll be pretty cool," Shanti said.
Like all youth sports, the after-hours game was made possible by the parents who drove their kids to the HLC and didn’t usher them out, even as the clock neared 10 p.m., with the daylight-savings shift looming. And the HLC staff were in no rush to put the ball away and spoil the fun, allowing for the most entertaining game of the weekend.
"It’s very special, and that’s the trick with sport is to create sport for life. To see kids of both genders, lots of ages playing together and just having fun with it and enjoying it," said Bobbi Schram, a Westman Youth Soccer Association coach and board member, whose twin daughters Kendra and Sydney were in action and probably combined for more than 10 goals on Saturday.
Schram agreed that both the chance for young players to take in a provincial championship and have Bobcats train and mentor them in practices is great for the development of soccer in western Manitoba.
"It does a lot, and the honest truth is some of the Bobcats are really good to our players as well. Some of the men have been to our practices and tried to do some cool stuff with the girls during their reading week," Schram said.
"Some of the other players have come in and worked with Jesse’s programs in the morning. They’ve gotten to know them and there’s a relationship there. It’s looking up to them both as athletes and students."
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