Family beams with pride as son leads N.W.T. futsal team to 2 victories in 1 day

Team captain Tanaka Muwirimi's hero — his dad — was in the stands Tuesday as the N.W.T.'s U16 male futsal team won 2-0 against Alaska and 13-2 against Nunavut.

Team captain Tanaka Muwirimi's hero (his dad) was in the stands watching him play

A family of three laugh with each other.
Tanaka Muwirimi, centre, shares a moment with his proud parents Philder Nyadembera and Panganai Muwirimi, after his futsal team won their match against Team Alaska. (CBC)

It was a close game, but the N.W.T.'s junior male futsal team eked out a 2-1 win against Alaska at the Arctic Winter Games on Tuesday — and then went on to a sweeping 13-2 win against Team Nunavut.

As team captain Tanaka Muwirimi played that first game at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre in Fort McMurray, Alta., he saw his hero — his dad, Panganai Muwirimi — up in the stands cheering him on.

"He's my idol, in my opinion. He's always been there," Tanaka said after his team won against Alaska. "He coached most of my teams, he really helped me improve my game. He was strong; when I had bad games, he was there. Good games, he was there."

A portrait of a couple, with the man's hands resting on the woman's shoulders and his head leaning against hers.
Panganai Muwirimi, left, and Philder Nyadembera watched their son play futsal at the Arctic Winter Games this week. (George Maratos/CBC)

Tuesday's games were just two of 15 futsal matches teams from the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Alaska and Nordic countries (Team Sápmi) are playing this week. They also follow a 4-2 loss against Team Yukon on Monday.

Speaking to CBC, Panganai didn't have the words to express how it felt to watch his son lead his team to victory.

"It's great to see your son playing, doing what he loves best. And I'm able to be available and present with him, supporting him," Panganai said.

A portrait of a youth wearing a jersey.
Tanaka Muwirimi, the centre back for Team N.W.T.'s futsal team, played at the Arctic Winter Games this week. (George Maratos/CBC)

Philder Nyadembera, Tanaka's mom, said they've been sending videos and photos to their family members back in Zimbabwe, "so they can feel a little bit of what we're feeling."

From Zimbabwe to Yellowknife

Panganai and his family moved from Zimbabwe to the U.S., and then to Toronto, where Tanaka was born. They eventually went west to Alberta, before Nyadembera accepted a job at the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.

Panganai said he started coaching his son in soccer because he saw the talent Tanaka had and wanted to help him succeed.

Watching Tanaka represent the N.W.T. at the Arctic Winter Games "feels great," he added.

"Mainly, because Canada accepted us and we feel like we are giving back, and my son is giving back," he said.

Soccer runs in the Muwirimi family. Panganai played in high school and college when he was younger, and several other family members have played as well.

Tanaka Muwirimi talks about his team's recent wins at Arctic Winter Games

8 months ago
Duration 6:56
Tanaka Muwirimi, the team captain for the N.W.T.'s futsal team at AWG2023, and his family tell the story of their journey to the Northwest Territories and what soccer means to them.

Given that family history, Tanaka said, he'd like to one day go pro.

"It's a passion of ours, we love the sport. It would be very nice to have that in my job, my career path," he said. "It's not just talent that brings you there — it's hard work and dedication that really gets you to where you want to be."

Hard work and dedication aside, Nyadembera said her advice to her son has always been the same: take time to enjoy what you're doing.

"In everything, we always tell him to be able to enjoy," Nyadembera said. "Because there's no point in you doing things that you don't enjoy."

The N.W.T. junior male futsal team plays Wednesday night against Alberta North, which has won two out of the three games it's played so far, before squaring off against Team Sápmi Thursday afternoon. Team Sápmi has won two of its games and tied a third.

Written by April Hudson with interviews from George Maratos