For Team British Columbia’s Keegan Charlie, soccer is a passion, and his years of training as a traditional dancer have helped to shape his rhythm on the pitch.
The 17-year-old captain of the BC 2017 NAIG men’s soccer team, has been dancing and singing for his Sts’ailes and Musqueam First Nation community since he was four-years-old. He is one of only a few First Nations people to play soccer in the BC Premier League and says his culture has made him the soccer player he is today.
“I’m very proud of who I am and where I come from,” said the 12th grader. “Nothing can really bother me when I’m dancing or when I’m playing sports. For me, they’re both just so spiritual. I’m very cultural and I don’t take that off when I’m playing soccer.”
Charlie has had the opportunity to play soccer regionally and provincially and carries a strong family tradition from competing for his village and community. Despite his reputation as a team leader, Charlie says he was taken aback when he was named captain of his 2017 NAIG team.
“I already knew who the core guys were in our region so I expected my name would be in the mix,” said Charlie. “When I was chosen I was a bit surprised but I knew what I could bring to the team and that I could do a good job. I knew I could lead by example.”
Confident in his abilities Charlie credits his parents and his grandparents for being powerful influences who have helped him to build his confidence as an athlete. Their constant words of encouragement serve as a reminder to him of his cultural identity—something he hopes to bring to his role as team captain.
“We’re representing not only our family and our community but also BC,” said Charlie. My family always told me ‘Never forget who you are.’ Those words can help someone if they are having a rough game. In tough moments, you can always remind yourself who you are and what you can do.”
With goals to play soccer at the varsity level and eventually having a professional career, Charlie says he’s honoured to be competing at the 2017 NAIG. Fiercely competitive the youngster has his eyes set on the podium and sees competing at these Games as a step closer to realizing his dreams.
“I’m looking forward to gaining more experience,” said Charlie. “I’m also hoping we can come out with a gold medal.”