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Inner-city kids get a big kick out of soccer

Free program teaches youngsters skills

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Elsa Garcia with her children, Olivia and Diego, who plan to attend  the Mobile Mini Soccer Program again this year.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Elsa Garcia with her children, Olivia and Diego, who plan to attend the Mobile Mini Soccer Program again this year. Photo Store

Kids in Winnipeg's inner city will get to learn how to kick and dribble a soccer ball from the pros this spring.

The Mobile Mini Soccer Program is bringing the equipment, coaches and premier soccer players to teach kids ages four to eight how to play the sport.

Olivia and Diego Garcia are just two of hundreds of kids who took part in the free program last year. They're excited to participate again this year.

'Sometimes because of money issues you can't pay for it, so it was really nice for them to be part of the program'

"I like playing the drills and the games because I had fun," said Diego, 7. "I liked when I got a medal and the shirt."

Along with learning new skills and playing a couple of soccer matches with their peers, the kids receive a jersey and medal.

"They say 'Mom, I loved this soccer program' and they bring it up every time they see their medals," said Elsa Garcia, the mom of Olivia, 8, and Diego. This program was the first time they played soccer with a team.

"Sometimes because of money issues, you can't pay for it, so it was really nice for them to be part of the program."

Organizer Shawna Nagler-Neufeld said that's one of the reasons the program was created last year.

"We just wanted them to have an authentic experience parallel to what their counterparts in other places in the city have," said Nagler-Neufeld, also the president of the St. Charles Soccer Association. "Mini-soccer is such a huge part of childhood," she said, adding this program targets the inner city because there are few mini-soccer programs in the area.

"Soccer is a great way to bring community together."

Program organizer Chino Argueta agreed. "It became family time, something that everyone would look forward to." He brought Hazel, his four-year-old daughter, to the program last year and noticed more adults than kids.

"Some kids brought their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I remember this one family, it was literally six to eight adults for one kid that went to the program every single week," said Argueta, the director of Youth Agencies Alliance.

"This program really shows that support can go beyond teaching kids a skill. It's truly a form of community development, and it truly brings people from many backgrounds, languages and paths of life together and experience happiness through seeing kids just being kids."

The Mobile Mini Soccer Program runs from May 12 to June 12 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The program is at West Broadway Neighbourhood Centre on Mondays, Brooklands School on Tuesdays, Central Community Centre on Wednesdays and Central Park on Thursdays.

danelle.cloutier@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2014 A2

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