It’s unlike any other soccer program. FFA (Football for All) Global is giving Toronto’s low-income kids the boost they need to succeed.
Growing up, Mark, 18, set his sights on playing professional soccer. Living in one of Toronto’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods he thought the sport would help keep him stay focused long enough to rebuild his life.
But eventually, showing up on the field with a pair of shoes wasn’t good enough. Participation fees came into effect and Mark’s mom, a single parent on a fixed income, simply couldn’t afford them. Mark walked away.
In the same neighbourhood, Asenai, 17, dreamt of playing professional sports to get away from the frequent sounds of gun shots, sirens, and negative influences. He liked the idea of a fresh start. But high fees also drove him to the sidelines with no way to connect to such a life.
“The reality is that if you don’t pay, you don’t play,” says FFA founder Adrian Johansson. “That means very talented, but less fortunate kids, are left behind.”
FFA Benefits At-Risk Youth
FFA identifies kids from tough backgrounds who need a helping hand in life and have a love for soccer. For kids whose families don’t have the funds to support their dreams, FFA not only gives them the opportunity to one day play professionally, it helps them become better people socially, spiritually and academically.
While defending, trapping, and dribbling are important skills to perfect in getting a professional tryout, FFA pushes these kids to an even higher standard.
“Accountability and clear expectations are teaching participants important and valuable lessons like respect, discipline and leadership,” says Johansson. “We don’t want them to just be good players, but to be good human beings.”
A non-profit organization, FFA relies heavily on partnerships like The Salvation Army. For example, The Salvation Army in Toronto provides space for its life-skills classes, and funding from The Salvation Army in Sweden helps with training, flights abroad if participants earn a tryout, and housing to get them used to their new community.
Hopeful and Energized
“FFA not only gave me the same opportunities as middle-class kids, but it helped me keep my head up during the difficult times,” says Mark, who, this summer will make the jump to Sweden to play pro on a youth contract.
Mark and Asenai are hungry to succeed both on and off the field, and feel fortunate to have met genuinely good-hearted people who recognized their talents, invested in them and inspired them to thrive in life.