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HomeSportsSoccer20-year-old Hamilton woman's passion for soccer earns her 'Youth of the Year'...

20-year-old Hamilton woman’s passion for soccer earns her ‘Youth of the Year’ award

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The feeling of dribbling a soccer ball down a field is nothing new for Saphia Shaaban.

The 20-year-old has played since she was three-years-old.

“I really like the teamwork aspect of it, it gives you a sense of community,” she told CBC Hamilton. “I also really liked learning different skills and trying to perfect my technique.”

As an adult, the former semi-pro soccer player has flexed a new muscle — running the Crown Point soccer program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada branch for Hamilton and Halton for over 165 kids.

“When you’re a player, you listen to what your coach says … when you’re a coach, you really have to do your research and know what you’re going to teach other youth and be a role model for them,” Shaaban said.

A woman playing soccer.
Saphia Shaaban, 20, said she started playing soccer at three-years-old. (Submitted by BGC Hamilton-Halton)

Shaaban also runs seniors recreation programs, like card games and crafts, and has helped with after-school programs for kids between Grades 1 and 6.

Her efforts won her a BGC Youth of the Year award this year.

Shaaban wants to ‘inspire other people of colour’ to pursue leadership

She was one of six winners, celebrated earlier this year for “outstanding leadership, service, and achievements within their communities,” according to BGC.

Award recipients receive prize packs, laptops, and post-secondary scholarships, as well as training to prepare them to become official BGC ambassadors.

“Winning this award has been an honour,” she said.

A woman playing soccer.
Saphia Shaaban hopes to pursue sports medicine. (Submitted by BGC Hamilton-Halton)

Milja Minic, manager of BGC Hamilton-Halton, said in a video by the organization, Shaaban is a “role model” for younger students.

“What [Shaaban] really talked about most was soccer is a great thing, but it’s a tool to get kids active and engaged and for her to be a role model about all the opportunities a thing like soccer can open up for people.”

Shaaban also hopes to motivate other youth to achieve great things — especially if they come from equity-seeking communities.

“I definitely want to inspire other people of colour to also pursue more leadership roles,” she said. 

Her recognition comes at a time when people like former national team player-turned-coach Rhian Wilkinson are encouraging youth like Shaaban to be part of the growth and the expansion of women’s soccer in Canada. 

More roles in the sport are opening up for women as well, as the Canadian professional women’s soccer league is set to kick off in 2025.

Sharlene Louden of the West Hamilton Youth Soccer Club near Westdale, who has 30 years of experience in coaching, told CBC Hamilton earlier this year that it is still rare to women coaching in soccer. But, she has “hope change is coming,” she said. 

For Shaaban, who is studying kinesiology at McMaster University, her plan is to become a physiotherapist and work in sports medicine.

“When I was a player, I witnessed many of my teammates, and also myself, get injured,” she said. “I want to help heal the players.”

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