Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Life imitates soccer

Game inspires city's African population to mix and mingle

  • Print

African communities in Winnipeg are using the power and popularity of soccer to build relationships and provide opportunities to immigrant youth.

Each summer since 2003 the city's African population, which is made up of various and often disparate cultures representing the entire continent, has come together to contest the African Cup of Manitoba soccer tournament, played from June to September at Whittier Park in St. Boniface. Nine nations were represented by a pseudo-national team at the 2011 event where the Sierra Stars -- representing Sierra Leone -- won the championship by beating Kenya 2-0 in the final.

But while the level of play is almost as good as it gets in this province (many of the players compete in Manitoba's Premier division; some even played for professional clubs before coming to Canada), the games themselves are of secondary importance. As Désiré Kommongné says, soccer is "a vehicle to get young people connected to positive outcomes in their lives."

Kommongné, involved with the African Cup of Manitoba since its inception, operates as the public relations officer for the event and oversees an organization that is as slick as it gets in local amateur sports. The competition's website,, is up-to-date and easy to use, and some of the participating teams, such as Kenya, use brand new national team uniforms shipped directly from Africa.

Murtaza Zavery is manager of the Kenyan side and credits the Kenyan Association of Manitoba with playing a large role in the team's organization. The Association, he says, was part of the team's makeup from day one, when it helped a group of University of Manitoba students launch the team in 2003. But once again, he's quick to point out, the actual soccer was merely the connecting point between the Kenyan students and those from other parts of Africa. Soccer, Zavery says, is a gathering tool that brings the city's African communities together.

"We never come together," he says. "Every group is doing their own thing. When it comes to soccer, that's when we meet people from other communities. We get to know each other."

Abey Solomon insists the African Cup is a useful social instrument that keeps young immigrants from, as he says, "doing things they're not supposed to do." He cites examples of players he has worked with as part of his Ethiopian team who now play at the university or even semi-professional level. Soccer, he says, is something that can help young people realize their potential, even outside the sport.

Kommongné speaks to this as well. While providing the physical activity the players need to stay healthy and fit, the African Cup also puts participants in contact with "caring coaches who are committed to helping them develop both the soccer skills and life skills they will need in life in general."

Soccer is a useful tool for personal development, he says, and is not only a benefit to physical health but also to social integration and education.

"We constantly promote soccer in Manitoba in the light of its unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values," he says. "Soccer development means investing in people and society at large. Soccer is a school of life."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2012 C4


Updated on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 9:53 AM CST: Adds colour photo

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Four Little Games

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JJOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-Postcard  Day-Horror frost and fog created a most beautiful setting at Assiniboine Park Thursday morning in WInnipeg- Enviroent Canada says the fog will lifet this morning and will see a high of -7C-  JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Feb 18, 2010

View More Gallery Photos

  • Africa edition

    Africa is one complex and gloriously unmanageable 'theme' to choose to kick off our 2012 series, Our City Our World, which is why it took up the whole newspaper on Jan. 18.

  • China edition

    Hard-working Chinese immigrants, once banned, have risen to the highest echelons of Manitoba.

  • Germany edition

    German immigrants have played a surprisingly large role in the development of the province.

  • Iceland edition

    Arriving in Manitoba in the 1870s unprepared for a brutal winter, Icelandic settlers and their descendants have left their mark on our province.

  • Italy edition

    Industrious Italians rose from peasant roots and adapted to Canadian society by mastering L’art d’arrangiarsi (the art of getting by).

  • Latin America edition

    It used to be the only time Prairie folks met Spanish-speaking people was when they vacationed down south. More often now, they're the people next door.

  • Middle East edition

    When the first Middle East families immigrated to Manitoba, mosques were unheard of and even yogurt was exotic. But now all that has changed.

  • Philippines edition

    A booming Filipino community nearly 60,000 strong has transformed Manitoba.

  • South Asian edition

    As the city's Indo-Canadian population experiences dramatic growth, its pioneers recall their warm Winnipeg welcome.

  • Ukraine edition

    Scarred by Holodomor, the Ukrainian community helped shape Winnipeg's cultural mosaic.

  • United Kingdom edition

    Manitoba's history is built on a foundation provided by settlers from the U.K., who came here seeking better lives.

Related Items


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google