Pitching In

Tournament Makes Gains Playing the Beautiful Game

Photo by Amanda Laprade
Photo by Amanda Laprade

Despite the vast diversity of people and cultures in the Concordia community, it’s not often they are united under the common banner of a charitable cause.

The second annual Unifying Concordia Charity Soccer Tournament, however, used the world’s most popular sport to do just that.

“It’s the only event of its kind that does what it does,” said Marvin Coleby, chairman of the International and Ethnic Associations Council at Concordia, who organized the event. “It literally gets student organizations to participate through a common medium, soccer, for a good, neutral cause.”

The team representing the Syrian Student Association emerged as the winners of the tournament, which took place last Saturday in Loyola’s sports dome. The IEAC ran the event along with the Concordia Caribbean Student Union. All proceeds went towards Share the Warmth—a nonprofit organization based in Montreal.

Share the Warmth, whose mission is to “awaken hopes and dreams by overcoming hunger and poverty” by using different social programs to help youth in underprivileged communities, was the perfect organization for the tournament to donate the money raised to.

“We always try to choose a cause that is apolitical and not religious because there are religious and “cultural associations participating and we don’t want bias at all,” Coleby said.

After donating to the Montreal Children’s Hospital for last year’s tournament, Coleby estimates that $1,000 will be donated to Share the Warmth, with the money coming from each of the 20 teams’ entrance fees.

“Donations received from the soccer tournament will go towards supporting our youth programs, which focus on combating the alarming 51 per cent high school drop-out rate in the southwest borough of Montreal,” said Fiona Crossling, executive director of Share the Warmth.

“These programs serve 200 young people in youth group, tutoring, mentoring, scholarship, and music programs.”

Each team, which was made up of at least seven members of a Concordia student association or club, had the option of either paying $80 or $95 to register. The 16 teams that chose to pay $95 received shirts customized by Erke, the tournament’s sponsor.

“We had a very good mix of associations that don’t necessarily ever interact,” Coleby said.

From the third-place National Society of Black Engineers to the fourth-place Francophone Student Association to teams from the Concordia Dodgeball League and Sustainability Action Fund, there were many playing levels among the wide variety of teams.

“There were teams that play together all the time and then other teams were kind of just for fun that didn’t necessarily come to win so it was a good dynamic with a fun and competitive environment,” Coleby said.

“There were a lot of cheers and exciting plays from players who play all the time but at the same time, there was a lot of laughing and joking from players who don’t play all the time,” said Coleby.

Even if some games were quite competitive, with tense moments where players were upset with certain refereeing decisions, Coleby noted that players were always aware the event was more about the cause than the game.

The final game, which featured the Syrian Student Association versus the Lebanese Student Association, pitted friend against friend in a jovial atmosphere. The score was about as close as the friendships, however, as the SSA edged their opponents 2-1.

“Winning this tournament was [in] our eyes, when we registered our team,” said Fares Jandali Rifai, president of the SSA, who cheered on his team at the event.

In addition to spreading awareness about the SSA at Concordia, Jandali Rifai said winning the tournament this year had extra importance for his team, given the ongoing conflict in Syria between government and rebel forces.

“Most importantly, [we want] to raise awareness for what’s happening in our beloved country and to stand with the heroes that are fighting for our dignity,” Jandali Rifai said.

The significance of supporting an organization like Share the Warmth is not lost on Crossling, either.

“Concordia students are powerful role models for our youth who are faced with critical decisions regarding their futures: to stay in school and follow their dreams, despite the challenges of poverty,” said Crossling.

Coleby, who is graduating this year, is confident that after two successful years, there will continue to be an annual soccer tournament that unifies Concordia.

“We’re hoping it will become an annual event and a staple in the university,” said Coleby.