Canadian soccer great Dwayne De Rosario was in Whitehorse last weekend for nearly a dozen on-court sessions with Yukon’s Arctic Winter Games (AWG) futsal teams and local youth players on Feb. 22 and 23 at the Canada Games Centre.
In addition to the futsal sessions, De Rosario also participated in a cultural presentation that included the Kwänlin Dághàalhaan K’e dancers as well as the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Junior Cancan Line on Saturday, and a question and answer session with the AWG players on Feb. 23.
For De Rosario, the opportunity to work with players in the Yukon doubled as a chance to see more of the country – something he said he’s trying to prioritize.
“I’ve always wanted to explore Canada a little bit more and when I had the opportunity to come to Yukon, I couldn’t turn that down,” said De Rosario during a break in the action on Feb. 22. “From what I’ve seen, (Whitehorse) seems like a nice small town. But most importantly, it was nice to work with the kids today.”
De Rosario said that joining in with the Kwänlin Dághàalhaan K’e dancers was the perfect warmup for the day.
“It was fun, but it was a lot of work. It burned my thighs a little bit,” De Rosario joked. “But for me, again, it was an opportunity to meet some of the First Nations community and appreciate what they’ve done for Canada in terms of culture and, for me, it was important.”
As far as the futsal being played here in the Yukon, De Rosario said there was some nice talent in the territory.
“I was pleasantly impressed. I didn’t come here with any expectations — I just came here to have an opportunity to work with the kids and to see where they’re at,” said De Rosario.
“Obviously, Yukon is a territory that might feel overlooked in the sense of access and availability to professional or national team programs, but hopefully with Vancouver and the Whitecaps program being so close they’re looking at the development here in the Yukon.”
The burgeoning relationship between the Yukon soccer community and the Whitecaps is paying dividends, as a handful of youth players have already benefited from the academy centre program in Whitehorse.
“There is obviously a lot of talent here and it’s about developing and nurturing that talent to make sure they get the proper pathway,” said De Rosario.
Sean Alden, the man who spearheaded the effort to get De Rosario to Whitehorse, said the visit did what he hoped it would.
“I think I managed to accomplish everything I set out to do in terms of giving the Arctic Winter Games teams the ability to be inspired,” said Alden. “(To) have the youth players be exposed to an individual of Dwayne’s calibre, … to help motivate the younger players and the youth players and maybe restimulate the soccer environment.”
Alden said De Rosario keyed in on a couple of concepts during the sessions.
“Dwayne’s number one focus is energy,” said Alden. “So you bring energy to training, you bring energy to the game. If you’ve done the rest, you’re going to get something out of it. So if you’ve got the focus, bring the energy, and you’re good.”
The timing of that message couldn’t have been better for the AWG teams, with competition just over two weeks away.
“That was a really nice attribute to really focus in on just for the simple fact it’s a long process and this is a unique environment,” said Alden. “To keep that energy up and to keep that desire to work hard is difficult. Setting a goal and setting another goal upon that and working through the hard times — those are the three things he really emphasized with the Arctic Winter Games teams.”
The weekend ended on a high note, with De Rosario donning a number 14 jersey and the captain’s armband for a Yukon men’s team in an exhibition match against the U18 Yukon Select boys team on Feb. 23.
Unsurprisingly, the all-time leading goal scorer for the men’s national team managed to find the back of the net and treated the crowd to his trademark “shake and bake” goal celebration.
For Alden, that was what put the whole weekend over the top.
“That was the cherry on it for the event,” said Alden. “I’m getting some great feedback — it’s a little overwhelming — so I think I’m ready to move on to the next one for sure.”
Who that player will be is yet to be determined, but what is clear is the fact there is an appetite and desire within the futsal community to learn from the best.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org