rafe arnott/metro vancouver


Rhonda Alvarez Licona, program co-ordinator for a Vancouver street soccer team, said being part of a team gives players self-esteem and a goal to work toward.


It might be a few months yet before games of catch and Frisbee are played on Vancouver’s frost-covered parks, but the cold weather isn’t keeping a new league of recreational athletes indoors — homeless soccer players.

This week around 15 homeless men and women will start practising for Vancouver’s first ever Street Soccer Canada team, a league that already has teams in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary.

Players, who compete in a national tournament in August, vie for a spot on team Canada, which competes at the annual Homeless World Cup, this year in Australia.

Rhonda Alvarez Licona, executive director with Helping Spirit Lodge, which is recruiting the players, said the experience gives the marginalized participants a feeling of belonging.

"It (offers) peer support and social inclusion," she said. "(They) know there’s a place they can come together and belong to a community. It’s really exciting to have something to look forward to on a daily basis."

The team is being endorsed by the Vancouver Whitecaps. It raises money through fundraising and collects equipment through donations.


for the homeless

Players must be 16 or older, must have been homeless in the past two years and must be in rehab if they have drug or alcohol issues.