‘So upsetting’: Teen’s soccer trip cancelled due to coronavirus

Published 2020-03-10 10:25

 Trip to Europe cost team $100,000

For the past two years, 14-year-old Wajdy Abbas has been working odd jobs and fundraising to help pay for a trip to Europe with his soccer team.

The teen from Coquitlam, B.C., moved to Canada from Syria five years ago, and the idea of the trip was “one of the best things I’ve ever heard,” he said.

Growing up in Syria, he only played soccer on the street with friends, not in an organized league. Going on a trip was unheard of.

But his hopes were crushed this week when he found out the trip was cancelled because of the coronavirus.

The trip is one of many planned by Canadian schools and groups that have been cancelled in recent days as concerns about travel to coronavirus hot zones increases.

“I've just been feeling so drawn into myself because it's just so upsetting,” he told CBC Kids News. “This whole time I feel like I've been working for nothing.”

Twin boys smiling on a soccer pitch as the sun sets.

Twin brothers Wajdy, right, and Taym Abbas, 14, were supposed to travel to Europe with their soccer team. (Submitted by Lola Kharma)

Although stories about the coronavirus have been in the news for several weeks now, things have changed recently as more cases have been confirmed in Europe and the U.S.

Canada reported the first death due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Monday. The victim was a man in his eighties from B.C.

Team still hoping to get their money back

Wajdy and his twin brother, Taym, play on the U15 Metro-Ford team and were set to go to England on Wednesday to play several games there, before heading to Italy for more games.

All the games were cancelled.

Italy has had the most confirmed cases of COVID-19, after China, and millions of people there are quarantined.

The total cost of the team's trip was $100,000.

Wajdy’s mom said she had spent about $9,000 so her two boys could go.

A group of boys in soccer jerseys surrounded by stuffies

The soccer team raised money by selling stuffies at Christmas. (Submitted by Marion Gasbarro)

Wajdy’s mom is a single parent. Not wanting to burden her, he got a summer job, took a course so he could referee soccer games, collected bottles and even shoveled snow in his neighbourhood to raise money.

“My other friends around me were getting like all these new Airpods, these new shoes,” he said. “I could have gotten [them, too] because I had the money, but I was saving up the whole time for the trip.”

So far, it looks like the team will be reimbursed for about half of the cost and the coach is organizing another team trip next year.

But Wajdy said he won’t be able to afford it if he doesn’t get reimbursed in full.

Getting sick would be ‘stressful’

He does understand, however, why measures are in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“I'm travelling without my mom and if I go across the whole world and I get the coronavirus or I get quarantined or something scary happens, it’s gonna be twice as scary,” he said.

Even the pro soccer players that Wajdy looks up to are affected.

Teams in Italy are playing in empty stadiums.

“If it gets bad to a point where professional teams …. make a decision to play behind the doors, that's pretty bad,” he said.

Professional soccer players in front of empty seats in a stadium.

Players from Inter Milan and Juventus played in an empty stadium on March 8. Many public events are being cancelled to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images)

Kids need to protect others

Kids who get COVID-19 aren’t getting really sick, and there have been no pediatric deaths (kids under 18) related to the illness anywhere in the world.

The problem is that kids can still spread the illness, said Jason Kinderchuk, an assistant professor in the department of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba.

Kinderchuk is the head of a research laboratory that studies what happens when emerging viruses circulate and spill over into humans or animals.

When kids get COVID-19, unless they have a suppressed immune system, “it looks maybe like a cold or a minor cold,” Kinderchuk said, which makes tracking it difficult.

A woman carrying a suitcase is stopped by police in a train station. Everyone is wearing a mask.

With more than 9,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy, the country has imposed strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including checking passengers at train stations. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)

And it’s people like grandparents that we need to be careful around.

“That segment of the population gets hit really hard,” he said.

Until a vaccine is developed, we need to avoid spreading it.

Kinderchuk added that every generation has to deal with new viruses.

“When I was growing up, we went through the onset of HIV and AIDS,” he said.

In the 1980s, there was a lot of fear and uncertainty about HIV. Today, many people lead long lives with the virus.

“These types of illnesses will never go away,” he said, but “we're in a fantastic position to be able to combat these things. But once in a while we're faced with something new and it's uncomfortable.”

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