Young soccer players in Yellowknife could be forgiven if they dream of playing for the United States, not Canada, when they grow up.
Not only are a handful of the city’s kids set to walk out with the US national women’s team at the World Cup on Monday night, but Yellowknife, Fort Providence and Behchoko also played host to US player Lori Lindsey last week.
Read: Yellowknife kids will lead out Olympic champions at World Cup
Lindsey, 35, spent the week touring the three NWT communities to help with soccer clinics and talk to young players. She represented the US at the last World Cup, in 2011.
“It’s definitely different here, but awesome,” Lindsey told Moose FM at the Active Start soccer festival in Yellowknife on Sunday.
“It’s been great to visit the different communities and see how they embrace the game, and how some communities revolve around soccer.
“I didn’t know that. You really felt the energy of the game and the excitement that’s around it.”
Lindsey made the trip to the NWT as part of the US Department of State’s Sports United Envoy program, backed by the US Consulate General in Calgary.
The Indianapolis-born midfielder visited Deh Gah School in Fort Providence, and Chief Jimmy Bruneau and Elizabeth Mackenzie schools in Behchoko.
She then spoke with players at a final selection camp for the Western Canada Summer Games before joining up with Sunday’s soccer festival at the city’s William McDonald School.
“The key is to continue to have fun,” Lindsey told young players. “I had a long career and I was fortunate, but the thing that kept me going was I enjoyed the game and had fun, even when it was tough and I felt like giving up.
“On the streets, on a field, one-on-one or an actual game – enjoy the game, work together with your team-mates, have fun.”
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At the World Cup, some of Lindsey’s former team-mates take on Colombia in Edmonton on Monday from 6pm.
They will be accompanied onto the field by 22 players from Yellowknife’s Sundogs team, coached by Joe Acorn. Organizers approached the team, whose players travelled to Edmonton for a tournament of their own, after they bought dozens of tickets to see the game.
Lindsey described her own memories of walking out in front of a huge World Cup crowd.
“To put on that jersey really takes a lot of work. It’s an honour and when you’re walking out in front of 30,000 or 50,000, it’s quite amazing,” she said.
“But I was never able to walk out as a kid, especially at a World Cup in my home country. Hopefully the kids can grasp what that means and the impact the players they’re walking out with have had on the sport.”
Photos: Lori Lindsey in Fort Providence
Yellowknife – Western Canada Summer Games team
Yellowknife – Garnier-Ombrelle Active Start Festival