Driving change through sport

Can a soccer ball change lives? The players and organizers behind Halifax Street Soccer think so.

By Brooke Oliver

Cultivating a new community for the less fortunate through sport. (Brooke Oliver/Peninsula News)

Valentin Mocanu and Lucas Goltz believe that a ball can change the world.

Mocanu, a Dalhousie University medical school student, and Goltz, who works in social support services, met upon moving to Halifax three years ago.

The two began discussing their passions for helping people of marginalized backgrounds, learning that they had both done work on Vancouver’s downtown Eastside.

“We decided that there wasn’t a lot of non-profit work in respect to this kind of community development involving sport,” explains Mocanu.

And thus, Halifax Street Soccer was born.

Part of a bigger picture

The Halifax chapter is a branch of a larger organization, Canada Street Soccer, and is the only group of its kind east of Montreal.

Their target group is anyone who has struggled with housing issues, income, lack of food, addiction, poor family upbringings and so forth.

The group usually sees upwards of 30 individuals come out each Sunday evening. They encourage anyone to drop by and play, free of charge. They have welcomed people from all walks of life including university students, professionals, and even ex-professional soccer players to join in with their regulars.

However, it is more than just sport.

“We use a very multidisciplinary approach. We have social workers, we have nurses, and Lucas has worked in homeless shelters. We work very inter-collaboratively to target a lot of things,” says Mocanu.

Johnny, who proudly shows off his bright green indoor soccer shoes, is one of the original players. He did not share his surname.

“For a long time, when I was in school, I got hit in the gut with a ball, so it knocked the air out of me, and that was the end of me playing that game,” he says with a laugh.

‘I’m abused in the net,’ Johnny says with a laugh. (Brooke Oliver/Peninsula News)

Though he was rusty in the beginning, Johnny has improved a great deal and played his first game against another team last year. He says he has met many of his greatest friends through soccer.

“We really try to make this a family and much like any family reunion, if you miss one week or a couple of weeks, which I’ve been unfortunate to do that last couple months because of exams, you really feel like you’re missing out. It’s just great coming back and seeing the respect and I love that everyone comes back to you,” says Mocanu.

Looking to the future

After sending their first athlete to the Homeless World Cup in Mexico last year, Mocanu, Goltz and the players are all excited about what is in store for Halifax Street Soccer.

The directors are interested in expanding beyond the current organization, and starting a league.

However, in the coming weeks they are all excited to simply move their Sunday night practices outside as nicer weather approaches.