OTTAWA, ON — “Today is the happiest day of my 10 first months in Canada,” said Muhkles Al Fares as he sat for the first day of an entry level referee course organized by The Ontario Soccer Association’s (OSA) Soccer and Settlement project.
A second division referee for almost 10 years and a sports physician for various Syrian clubs, Al Fares arrived in Canada, hoping to give his two children a better future and to continue to be involved in the sport he loves. The 2002 U-20 Asian Championships and the 2008 Asian Champions League are just two of the events he has attended in his long soccer career but there was a major barrier: language.
“This is my first contact with soccer in Canada,” said Al Fares after completing the course exam online.
A client of the Catholic Centre for Immigrants (CCI), one of the project partners, he learned about this initiative, but waited to improve his English skills to start benefiting from it. He has devoted all his time in Canada to learning English during three daily lessons: morning, afternoon and evening. In the process he became a volunteer of the Community Cup, an annual recreational co-ed soccer tournament connecting new and mainstream Canadians.
As he waits for his wife and two children to join him soon, Muhkles Al Fares appreciated the opportunity offered by the Soccer and Settlement project. He has already made new friends like EODSA Instructor Ridha Ben Rejeb and looks forward to joining a club soon to referee the different leagues in the Ottawa-Carleton region.
Muhkles Al Fares is one of over 60 new referees from over 20 nationalities certified under the OSA Soccer and Settlement project, aiming to facilitate new Canadians’ integration through soccer.
The project has also certified over 30 new coaches, some of whom have joined several Ottawa clubs in time for the 2012 season.
The two-year project is a partnership of the OSA, Catholic Immigration Centre, Ottawa (CIC) and the Eastern Ontario District Soccer Association (EODSA).
Report and Photo by Javier Clavelo / OSA
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