Futsal Helping Newcomers Feel At Home
The sport of Futsal has built up quite a following over the past two years in Steinbach, Manitoba.
A large group of futsal players, mostly consisting of recent immigrants, meet every Monday to play, but this Saturday there will be an even bigger group gathering to be apart of a six team tournament at the Evangelical Mennonite Church.
The game is usually played indoors with five players aside, smaller nets and a smaller ball that has less bounce than a regular soccer ball. The game puts an emphasis on improvisation, creativity and technique as well as ball control and passing in small spaces.
“We have many Mennonites from Belize, Mexico and Bolivia, and they somehow got in contact with [Futsal],” explained Irai Rodriguez, the organizer of the local league, when asked how common the sport is in Canada. “The Germans and the English people know, but it’s not very traditional, so it surprised me.”
Rodriguez is originally from Brazil, but was living in Bolivia with his wife and two children up until three years ago when they had an opportunity to move to Canada. He says it was a hard transition, but being able to play Futsal has helped him meet new people and integrate into the culture.
“It’s helps us to de-stress,” said Rodriguez. “All the stress of being a father of a family, trying to lead your family forward while trying to bring some money home is very stressful. We also build social connections, helping us find new jobs and make new friends.”
If it wasn’t for the help of a couple of local organizations, the local Futsal league would never have come to be. Rodriguez explained that they started a league when he first arrived, but they ran out of money and couldn’t find a place to play.
He approached Eastman Immigrant Services and the EMC to see if they would help out. Sure enough, they did, giving the group of players everything they needed to have some fun.
“Great people,” said Rodriguez. “I talked to the people at the EMC, and they made some changes in their constitution to make it possible. So now we play for free and Eastman Immigrant services come with the funds for equipment.”
This weekend’s tournament starts at 9AM on Saturday and goes all day long. Rodriguez added that all the players’ families and friends are invited to watch and build new relationships. They will have a bouncer and a few other kids activities available.