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Soccer teams bring home four medals

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 09, 2007

Alburquerque - On Aug. 6 soccer players poured off a bus in Fort Simpson after a long ride from Edmonton, tired but elated.

The players were returning from Albuquerque, New Mexico where they had competed in the inaugural Indigenous Soccer Cup from July 28 to Aug. 4.

Twenty-five soccer players from Fort Simpson, Jean Marie River and Fort Liard helped make up the four Northwest Territories teams that brought home four medals.

At the top of the podium was the U-16 boys' team that won gold in their division. Other prizes included two silver medals by the U-19 boys and girls' teams and a bronze from the U-14 boys' team.

The U-16 boys' team, which included five athletes from Fort Simpson, won their final game 5-1 against a team from Albuquerque to gain the gold, said Shane Thompson, a coach for the U-19 girls' team.

For the U-19 girls' team with eight of 11 players from Fort Simpson, it all came down to the semifinals where they lost 8-3 to Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque players were able to take advantage of their approximately 30 shots on the net while the NWT team had 35 chances but only 10 were on the net, he said.

The girls look forward to playing the team again at the next North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) that will be held in British Columbia in 2008, Thompson said.

Although the team had a rocky start the players pulled together, said Lynette Anderson, one of the members.

"We played a pretty good game at the end," said Anderson.

Albuquerque definitely provided the strongest competition, she said.

"They're a pretty solid team," Anderson said.

The U-19 boys' team was also faced with opponents from Albuquerque in the finals. Both teams had a record of three wins and one loss coming out of the round robin play.

The NWT team, which included two players from Fort Simpson, one from Jean Marie River and one from Fort Liard, lost in a close game where the final score was 1-0.

Earlier the team had had a victory in the semifinals winning 10-0 against Team Navajo from White Rock, Arizona.

"I think we played really good," said Mathew Gauthier, one of the team members.

The final game was stressful with an Albuquerque player scoring a goal with 15 minutes left in the game.

"It was a rough game," said Gauthier.

Despite the final loss Gauthier said the team played well together in their games.

"It was a good experience," he said.

Also on the medal podium were the U-14 boys' team, with seven players from Fort Simpson and one from Fort Liard, who won their bronze medal game 10-7 against a San Felipe team.

Earlier in the semifinals the NWT team had lost a heart-breaker 4-1 against the Alberta team. There were scoring chances on both sides but the Alberta team was able to take advantage of their opportunities, said Shane Thompson.

In addition to the medal winnings, Gordon Thompson won the leadership award in the U-16 boys' division and Lynette Anderson was the runner-up for the most valuable player award in the U-19 girls' division.

Overall the tournament was a positive experience for the Northern athletes, said Shane Thompson.

The athletes had the chance to see the competition they'll be facing at the next NAIG games and find out what skills they need to work on developing, he said.

In addition to playing soccer, the athletes had the chance to attend a feast day at the Pueblo of Jemez. The youth were able to watch the celebration and dancing and get a taste of the local indigenous culture.

"It was a really positive experience for all the kids to see," said Thompson.

While in Jemez, each team was invited into a home where they were treated to a feast.

In return each team left behind a present from the North including a moosehair tufting, a birch bark basket, a jacket and a muskoxen tapestry.