Indigenous

Power of soccer among youth in Nunavut captured in short documentary

The documentary, Playing Through Blizzards: Football In The Arctic, was filmed around an under-18 territorial championship futsal tournament in Iqaluit last November.

'Sports is a really good way to get your mind off things and escape from what's going on in your actual life'

"When I go on the court, there's nothing else I think about but the game," says 17 year old Shawna Kyak of Iqaluit. (Submitted by Adrian Assoufi)

The importance of soccer for youth in Nunavut is the subject of a new short documentary filmed in Iqaluit last fall.

The documentary, Playing Through Blizzards: Football In The Arctic, was filmed before and during an under-18 futsal tournament in November.

Futsal is a type of indoor soccer. Sixteen teams from across the territory flew in to compete against each other in the tournament.

"When I go on the court, there's nothing else I think about but the game," said 17-year-old Shawna Kyak.

Kyak was the captain for the U18S girls' team during the tournament and has been playing soccer for six years. 

"The suicide rate is really high and a lot of stuff happened in the past with residential schools that affected the youth growing up," she said. 

"I find sports is a really good way to get your mind off things and escape from what's going on in your actual life."

The film was created as part of the Creator Commissions initiative by Copa90, an independent football media network. 

In the documentary, players, coaches, and community members talk about the importance of having organized sports like soccer in their communities.

"We were hoping that we would be able to share what the sport means to the territory, to the community, especially to the youth," said Adrian Assoufi, who directed the film.

Assoufi is the digital engagement co-ordinator with TakingITGlobal, a non-governmental organization with the goal of empowering global youth.

On his first trip to Nunavut, he came across a soccer kick-about game in Arviat. As a long-time sport and soccer fan, he found the youth he met in Nunavut and their skill left an impression on him.

"I've experienced it myself how [sport] can help you build friendships that last lifetimes," he said.

The documentary shows players, coaches, and community members talking about the importance of having organized sports like soccer in their communities. (Submitted by Adrian Assoufi)

He also helps run a program called Create To Learn, which provides Indigenous youth training on digital media production.

"As a young person myself, I know what it means when someone older comes to you and is meeting you where you are, looking to share knowledge that means something to you and work on the passion that you have," said Assoufi.

Aspiring filmmaker

Through this program he met Isaac Strickland, an 18-year-old aspiring photographer and filmmaker from Iqaluit, who helped film the short documentary.

"It was extremely important for him to be the one that figures out and guides what we should be sharing," said Assoufi.

"It's his community and he took on a really strong leadership role."

“As long as I’m aware of certain things around me I’m going to try to inform others about it in the best way I feel I can, which is storytelling, "says Isaac Strickland, an 18-year old aspiring photographer and filmmaker from Iqaluit. (Submitted by Adrian Assoufi)

Strickland doesn't play soccer, but has seen how it helps bring together and lift the spirits of his classmates.

"It becomes more than a team and almost feels like family for everyone," said Strickland.

"It gives them something to do, something to get their mind off things."

Strickland enjoys storytelling and that's what he loves about film and photography. He wants to help inform people about things in Nunavut that they might not be well educated about.

"As long as I'm aware of certain things around me I'm going to try to inform others about it in the best way I feel I can, which is storytelling," said Strickland.

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.