BT Vancouver: Street Soccer League

Some Vancouver soccer players are hitting the pitch with extra gusto these days. They’re heading to an important event thanks to some generous donations. The Street Soccer League has raised enough money to send a team to the June Sports tournament.

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Darpan: LA Kings Player Willie Mitchell Backs Vancouver Street Soccer Team

As the Kings continue to forge ahead on the ice, injured NHL defenseman Willie Mitchell will be making his mark off the ice and on a soccer pitch in Northern Vancouver Island.

This Thursday, the Vancouver Street Soccer League got a big boost when Mitchell kicked in the remaining $1800 to help the league take a full team to compete in June Sports, an annual First Nations hosted tournament held in Alert Bay.

The Vancouver Street Soccer League empowers people who suffer from homelessness, metal health challenges and addiction issues through soccer. Two years ago over a dozen players attended the June Sports tournament, which blends Aboriginal culture and tradition with competitive soccer. Organizers say that the tournament had a profound and deep impact on many of the team’s players.

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Vancouver Westender: Taking soccer to Vancouver streets

When soccer fans think of Diego Maradona, one of the sport’s greatest legends, few focus on the fact he began his life in an impoverished Argentine shantytown. What’s perhaps most remarkable about Maradona’s meteoric rise is that it’s hardly unique. Soccer’s history is loaded with tales of individuals who’ve overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in order to join the world’s elite

Founded in 2009, the Vancouver Street Soccer League sees “the beautiful game” as a potential catalyst for changing the lives of the city’s most marginalized residents on the Downtown Eastside. Through practices and tournaments, the homeless, addicted, and otherwise at-risk not only improve their health but also learn about housing and employment opportunities and other support networks available to them.

“We don’t push,” stresses Kurt Heinrich, who serves as the league’s director of communications and the Portland FC squad’s assistant coach. “Some of the players just want to play soccer. But we find that the environment we create is so positive that, down the road, they are going to be looking at goal-setting… Looking at their life and how they can take it to the next level.”

Erin Backer is one such player. Playing in the league since 2010, she’s kicked addiction and represented Canada at the 2011 Homeless World Cup in Paris. She now works with the Boys & Girls Club and hopes to become a counsellor. She’s also been invited to share her experiences at the April 24 opening gala of the Projecting Change Film Festival.

And Backer’s is but one of many success stories. “We’ve had a number of people who are inspirational to me,” enthuses Heinrich. “Patrick Oleman went to the Homeless World Cup in Brazil. Not only did he build his own team — Woodwards FC — he’s now running marathons. He’s working as a peer mentor with a First Nations running program and working with the Whitecaps.”

Just as the VSSL continues to grow organically, the changes that occur in its players’ lives are often incremental. As their motto reads: “Somehow we just have fun and the other parts mostly take care of themselves.” That said, Heinrich and his colleagues welcome anyone interested in lending a hand.

“Just show up,” he suggests. “We practise at Andy Livingstone Park (89 Carrall) at 10am on Thursdays and Sundays. The more the merrier. We’re super inclusive. All skill sets. Even if you just want to cheer. We’re looking for anybody who wants to support this program.”

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Local Blogger: “30 Days of Kindness” Plays Soccer And Clothes Vancouver Street Soccer League with Fairware

Street Soccer is about having fun, getting fit, making friends, finding connections to jobs and housing, and working on decreasing substance use, but somehow we just have fun and the other parts mostly take care of themselves.

That is the motto of the Vancouver Street Soccer League. For my 30 Days Of Kindness today I partnered with Fairware, whose mantra is “products with purpose”. So it was no surprise to me when I got a tweet from the co-owners Sarah and Denise asking if they could be a part of my kind acts campaign.

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Vancouver Courier: Street soccer president named community MVP

The Whitecaps and Vancouver Street Soccer League are waging a relentless around-the-clock online campaign to secure $10,000 for the grassroots sports program and recognition for its outgoing president Alan Bates.

The professional soccer club nominated Bates for the league-wide 2012 W.O.R.K.S. Community MVP, a Major League Soccer charitable initiative now in its fifth year that addresses social inequality and promotes health through sport.

“He’s really deserving of this community award,” said Whitecaps ambassador and former national team player Carl Valentine. “We want it so much for him because he deserves it and obviously, the money that comes in will enable him to do a lot more for homeless soccer. We’ll be doing everything in our power to make sure that happens.”

Ever the team player, Bates recognized it might be his name on the ballot but said the honour is shared.

“It’s unfortunate that they had to put one person’s name down because we’re all about being a team of volunteers and a team of street soccer players who work together and that’s the way that we’re approaching this contest,” he said. “We’ve got a huge team of people voting over and over and over and over. It’s fun that way—it’s another team activity that we’re working on together.”

Teams from around the league name a candidate who makes a difference in their town. Online voting began last week. The winner claims the cash prize, a chance to see the MLS all-star game in Philadelphia.

Since supporters can vote more than once, street soccer players, volunteers and supporters are furiously voting as often as they can sit down at a computer.

Valentine has voted, and the street soccer league hosted a voting party Monday afternoon at the W2 Media Lab in Woodward’s after a handful of Whitecaps players joined them for a scrimmage at Oppenheimer Park.

On a Facebook page created to drum up support and motivate voters, players joke about launching midnight and morning “attacks” and coordinating their efforts to pick off competitors. “No. 1 and No. 2 are right in front of us,” said one voter. “I can smell them.”

The ploys are playful but not in jest since $10,000 is at stake.

Out of 19 nominations, Bates jumped from 12th to seventh and, over the weekend, crept into fifth and then fourth. On Tuesday morning, he sat third behind nominees from the Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas.

Voting closes at 2 p.m. Friday, July 13 and can be done HERE.

Like the calm at the centre of a storm, Bates is one of the street soccer league’s primary administrators, its technical director, and coach of the Portland FC men’s team. He is also the league’s president, although he is leaving the volunteer position and the league will hire a part-time executive director. Professionally, he is a psychiatrist.

He is appreciative of the Whitecaps and its charitable foundation, both which have contributed time, money, equipment and game tickets to the league.

“Sometimes, what I’ve heard some street soccer players say is that it’s nice to feel like you’re someone important,” said Bates. “Just with some of the problems street soccer players run into with poverty, mental illness and addictions, sometimes there are feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness that set in and if you’ve got the Whitecaps to come visit you, you’re not nobody.”

His dedication to the city’s marginalized and disenfranchised has created opportunities where none existed before, said Debbie Krull, a goalkeeper who tended net for Team Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Paris last summer.

“He is calm and quiet and has endured numerous instances of extreme violence and character assassinations. And he’s completely calm. Because of that perseverance, the league has grown,” she said, noting the rise of a women’s program and a team called Phoenix.

“Not only does he create space for the league, he creates space for each player to share their personal challenges. The fact that men are openly disclosing and making themselves open to him to share, that’s really quite amazing and rare, especially in sport. He’s creating that space where men feel safe and can overcome their challenges. Not just men, women, too. The fact that I have this opportunity to talk to you and express this—even this is one of the outcomes of Alan’s perseverance.”

Along with self-control and a wellspring of self-esteem, Virgil Goosehead discovered his latent ball-handling talent after he joined Portland FC.

In an email to the Courier, Goosehead wrote, “Coach Alan has given me a new understanding of soccer, how it’s played, rules, and most of all PRIDE!! He has taught me that a ball can change the world, and how to deal with my anger on and off the field. I admire his kindness and passion to help street people.”

Through the street soccer league, Goosehead secured housing and now plays for a team he helped found, the Station Street Express. Along with Krull, he represented Canada at last year’s Homeless World Cup. (Full disclosure: I also volunteer with the league.)

“I’m voting for Alan because if it wasn’t for him, a lot of us street soccer players would have never experienced the things we’ve done. Without Street Soccer I wouldn’t have a clue what I’d be doing.”

The Whitecaps partnership with the Street Soccer League started about four years ago when the club’s alumni team played the Vancouver Dream Catchers, the inaugural team and the impetus for the league that followed.

Valentine played in that early game. He said the changes he’s seen from individuals has been remarkable.

“You get to hear some of the stories and the journeys they’ve had and where they are now. You go back again and you see the transition. Some of the players that have come from that world where they’re just down and out—there’s just nothing for them—and you give them a lift, give them a healthy outlook on life and it just really is incredible.”

The Whitecaps ambassador pointed to the source of the league’s growth and its individual and international accomplishments: “I think he’s got everything to do with it—Alan’s passion and his desire to give people another chance at life.

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Vancouver Sun: Street Soccer President up for Community MVP Award

Alan Bates knows the challenges of a soccer league for people affected by homelessness, but he’s also seen the positive effect it has had on those fallen on desperate times.

The president of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, Bates is the Whitecaps nominee for the MLS Community MVP project, which includes nominees from 19 clubs across the league and will, based on fan voting, give $10,000 to the winner’s charity of choice.

Voting at the official MLS Soccer website began on July 2, and concludes Friday at 2 p.m.

As of Wednesday morning, Bates was third in the polls.

Bates feels that giving those people affected by homelessness an outlet such as soccer can pay dividends for both the individuals, and society as a whole.

“We find, through street soccer, people can get better housing, they get employment, it builds their confidence and improves their health,” he said.

Bates has even submitted the abstract research to the UBC psychiatry department and presented his findings at a conference in Honolulu.

The full results have yet to be published, but the abstract report indicates that of the 63 self-reports collected by Vancouver Street Soccer, 46 per cent of those players say they have seen an improvement in their physical health since joining the league.

Forty-two per cent said their mental health had also improved.

Street soccer has been in Vancouver for the last four years, said Bates. Players range from 15 years of age to 55, and both men and women can play. There are now nine teams that make up the VSSL.

Most of the players in the local league come from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but there are teams from Surrey and North Vancouver, as well.

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South Delta Leader: Taking care to the streets and pitch

Sport can help transform lives.

Alan Bates has seen it first-hand many times.

And thanks to that the former Tsawwassen soccer player is in the running for a $10,000 charitable donation to help others enjoy the “beautiful game”  and improve their fortunes.

Bates, who attended Cliff Drive Elementary school and graduated from South Delta Secondary, is the Vancouver Whitecaps‘ nominee in the Major League Soccer Community MVP Award, on on-line competition seeking votes from fans across North America.

A resident psychiatrist at UBC Bates founded the Vancouver Street Soccer League for those affected by homelessness.

Every Sunday Bates, who works in some of the medical clinics and hospitals on the Downtown Eastside, leads the practice for Portland FC—named after the Portland Hotel Society, one of the city’s largest social housing providers.

And many of those who show up to kick the ball around for fun experience plenty of other benefits.

“I was never an elite soccer player but definitely recognized the game’s potential to help people with their self confidence and identity,” said Bates, a right-sided fullback who was a member of the Tsawwassen Cougars team that was one of the first Tsawwassen teams to win a provincial title. “And I think that’s why it works with the street soccer players.”

Bates said there has been research done at UBC on the effects of participating in the street soccer league that showed the players ultimately found better housing, got employment, reduced their drug use, made friends and got into trouble with the police less often.

“We’re seeing all of these positives effects of just having friends, a social network, and being part of a team,” Bates said.

Bates, 35, discovered street soccer through Facebook four years ago and volunteered as a coach for Vancouver’s first street soccer team called the Dreamcatchers.

And as he saw the positive affects mount he became more involved with the league and is now its president.

One of those players who showed a remarkable turnaround was Patrick Oldman who captained Bates’ team that played in the Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2010.

“He (Oldman) just started playing soccer that year—he’d never played before—and just a month or two ago he completed the Vancouver Marathon,” Bates said. “So, physical fitness and soccer have become an integral part of his life, and he’s really changed things around.”

Bates said seeing the transformation many undergo is “awesome.”

“It’s not only on the field seeing them develop skills and fitness. All these players, men and women, hang out together off the field as well. And when I’m walking through the Downtown Eastside in my job as a doctor I see guys wearing soccer jerseys and hanging out together. And it’s really become part of their identity.”

To vote for Bates in the MLS Works Award competition visit


Bates is currently in third place in the standings. Voting ends Friday (July 13) at 2 p.m.

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Breakfast TV: Alan Bates and Bob Lenarduzzi

Breakfast TV talks with Bob Lenarduzzi and Alan Bates.

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The Province: Whitecaps Nominate Street Coach

All that’s standing between Alan Bates and a $10,000 prize for charity is an online vote – and you can help.

The resident psychiatrist at the University of B.C. is taking a real-world approach to helping Vancouver’s home-less – founding a Street Soccer league to help them play their way to a better life.

“Sometimes people get more out of playing on a field than coming into an office and telling me what’s wrong,” said Bates, who signed up as a volunteer for the Vancouver Dreamcatchers four years ago and never looked back.

“At soccer, I’m just a coach.

“We did a study at UBC – the players make more friends, they get better housing.

“But I think it would be a lot less popular if it was portrayed as a medical pro-gram.

“It’s just a soccer team.”

Bates’ volunteer post led him to found

Vancouver’s Street Soccer league – now nine teams strong – and every Sunday finds him coaching the Portland FC team.

Bates said soccer is an obvious fit in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a people’s game with no upfront costs where every Sunday he’s out on the pitch playing.

“All you need is a ball and you’ve got the beautiful game,” said the 35-year-old doctor.

For his efforts, Bates is now the Vancouver Whitecaps’ nominee for the Major League Soccer Community MVP Award, which carries a $10,000 first prize and is now being put to an online vote.

“We strongly believe that soccer is

important,” said Rachel Lewis, Chief Operating Officer of Whitecaps FC.

“He’s using soccer as a vehicle for improving their lives, and that’s fantastic.

“Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money for an organization like this. We’re proud to support this nomination, and we’re encouraging people to vote.”

Bates made a small move Tuesday – from 13th to 12th – in the online contest, currently led by nominee Andrew Pock-lington of the Philadelphia Union.

To enter your vote, go to mlssoccer. com/mlsworks/community-mvp/vote and click on the blue vote button.

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Vancouver Sun: Metta World Peace plays street soccer in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside


Metta World Peace, a Los Angeles Lakers NBA player formerly known as Ron Artest has been vacationing in Vancouver and last night his agenda included a game of street soccer at Oppenheimer park on the east side.

The player tweeted early yesterday morning calling his fans to join him at the Vancouver Street Soccer League, an organization that helps the high risk community.

Metta has his own nonprofit organization, Xcel University, which helps promote mental health awareness to at risk communities and schools, helping children have a healthy and positive lifestyle, according to a post on

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