“True allyship demands that it move from conversation to action”

Emmanuel Acho

In celebration of the 2021 AccessAbility Week (May 30th-June 5th) in Canada, Soccability Canada held its first ever Accessible Soccer Forum on Friday May 28th. This was our next stake in the ground towards a more accessible and inclusive soccer environment in Canada.

We gained momentum by bringing the progressive minds of dedicated grassroots club leaders on a call to discuss current challenges under the pandemic, identify future opportunities and to network. We’re happy to report it was clear that more can and will be done in the very near future.

Accessible program leaders from Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta enjoyed a lively but relaxed discussion around the development of their accessible programs across Canada. Ultimately the view was that their players want to get back on the pitch as soon as possible and the groundswell of interest at the grassroots level was ultimately where the development and innovation will start. The attendance of Drew Ferguson, Head Coach of the Canada Soccer Para team was a great first opportunity for many on the call to hear from him about the national team program and their own challenges during the pandemic. It was also a great way for Drew to connect with the Clubs that will ideally be the future supply chain of players to this program.

Everyone on the call was clearly an ally to accessible soccer and lived their role on a daily basis.  The definition of allyship is;

‘the state or condition of being an ally: supportive association with another person or group, specifically: such association with the members of a marginalized or mistreated group to which one does not belong’.

Allies on the call had already stepped up; they’d identified themselves as allies to people in our community who want to play, to compete and to belong. Grassroots clubs with accessible soccer programs have already identified that without club people making these opportunities happen, there will be another generation of children, youth and adults who will miss out. These club people may have come to the table as an ally through a family connection, as a board member or a professional background in special education or physical education and moved from talking about change to making change happen. In doing so this moves them away from simply being a performative ally. The detrimental implication of a performative ally is well described here by Holiday Phillips in her article Performative Allyship Is Deadly. I encourage you to read it and learn a little more about the harm it can do. The traits of a performative ally are succinctly listed here by NKD, London and include:

  1. Broad gestures that would be demonstrated in aesthetics over educational value
  2. Ticking Corporate Social Responsibility boxes without a corporate wide impact
  3. Publicly proclaiming but privately doing nothing
  4. Policy change without the culture change
  5. Doing for a virtuous reward such as praise or approval

Now that we know what we DON’T want to see in our allies it is important to reflect on what we DO want to see and how the group that met this week are already leading the way. From the experts out there in inclusion and equality we found this graphic to be very helpful in the ‘Do’s of allyship’.

What our accessible program leaders (ally’s) said during the course of the forum that resonated with us included;

  • Tim from Woodstock SC; ‘We started in 2013 with a drop in format, before COVID we were at about 40 different athletes each week’.
  • Tammy from Pickering FC; ‘ We’ve been offering a Learn to Train program,  virtual yoga which is critical for mental health issues within our community, our FUNdamentals program plus special guests’.
  • Drew from Canada Soccer; ‘Hats off to you that are all dedicated to run these programs. We need more promotion and support of these programs’.
  • Nicolas from North Toronto SC; ‘Includes a lot of player from our Club so we pair up everyone with a buddy sort of system and they become partners moving forward, so it becomes a sort of organic friendship because they’re kids as well’.
  • Pat from FEDS; ‘Because of everything that’s happened we feel we need to get back to some program basics from where we started, let’s get the people out and get something going’.
  • Tyler from Weyburn SA; ‘My obsession with soccer took over and I just started researching everything I could and making phone calls. What really inspired me was Pickering and what they were doing that really stuck out for me’.
  • Chloe from Burlington Soccer; ‘Our program includes a lot of soccer and physical literacy as well as social skill and social skills development such as communication’.
  • John from Alberta Soccer ‘With the Canada Soccer standards it’s fantastic that one of the requirements is inclusive and accessible sport. We have 11 Clubs who complied with the National Youth License and will now be required to include an accessible or inclusive program’.
  • Greg from Oakville SC ‘Our Breaking Barriers program is one we’re very proud of and we’ve seen players transition from this program into our house league program’.
  • Gina from Eastside Memorial Soccer ‘We’re also moving into power soccer as well. We partnered with Alberta CP Sports Association last year, we then ran some coaching clinics and really it’s just blossomed since there’.

While this first forum was limited to one person from each of the current accessible Clubs we know that not all Clubs were able to attend and that Clubs may also like to bring additional Members. Our second forum will be scheduled for August 27th and open to a wider group of interested club leaders from within the soccer system. Look out for further details and if you would like to attend the next forum or chat more please email us at

“I raise up my voice – not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard”

Malala Yousafzai


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