August 6-21, 2022
Meridian Credit Union fr

5/26/22

by: Bill Potrecz, BP Sports Niagara

WITH THE SUPPORT OF HIS COMMUNITY, N.W.T.’S BENNETT HAS HIS SIGHTS ON NIAGARA 2022

Shamar Bennett wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The 17-year-old resident of Norman Wells, N.W.T., was selected last year for the Northwest Territories’ training squad for its men’s soccer team with the hope of being chosen to compete at the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games. 

But the territory’s soccer association doesn’t cover individual expenses, so Bennett began fundraising to cover the costs of travel to regular training camps in Yellowknife. 

Thanks to an outpouring of support from his community with more than $5,000 raised or donated, Bennett has been able to attend monthly practices.

“It felt really good and I was really happy to see that they believed in me and gave me that chance and donated,” Bennett said. “I felt really honoured and appreciative of that.”

North-Wright Airways and Canadian North covered all airfares for his training campsfrom Norman Wells, a tiny town of less than 700 situated on the north side of the Mackenzie River and roughly 700 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.

“Before I got all the donations I didn’t know if I would be able to go,” Bennett said. “It didn’t feel possible because the funding isn’t there and if I have to pay for it out of my own pocket, I didn't know how long that would last.”

Bennett recently returned from Saskatchewan where the team participated in a showcase tournament. In July, he will travel to Edmonton for a final tournament.

“That’s when the team will be decided,” Bennett said. 

Bennett said being selected for the team would be the thrill of a lifetime.

“I have been thinking about it but I grew up in Jamaica so this was never a thought of mine that I would be playing in the Canada Summer Games,” he said. “It’s such a big tournament. Just the idea of being on the team is crazy.”

Bennett is doing all he can to make the final cut. 

“You have to have as much confidence in yourself as you can,” he said. “I just try to do as much as I can here because there’s no soccer. I try to run as much as I can and play all kinds of sports — hockey, curling, basketball, golf — to keep myself active so that when I do go to Yellowknife I’m not too out of touch with the others who play regularly.”

Bennett admits that with no formal soccer in Norman Wells, it can be a challenge to stay sharp.

“It is pretty difficult to leave practice and come back here. Sometimes I’m just kicking the ball to myself. It’s not the same as when you’re playing against someone, that competitive feeling is not there,” he said.

Bennett, who normally plays striker, moved to Norman Wells three years ago with his mother, Keisha Campbell. 

“My mom started working and thought it was best if I came along,” Bennett said. “It turned out to be the best thing.”

The Jamaican-born Bennett did admit to some culture shock at first. 

“Initially, it was really hard because I was used to going outside and having so many different places to go to and then I came here and there wasn’t that much,” he said. “It’s really small. One school, two stores, everyone knows everyone. It took me a bit to get used to.”

Bennett said he will never forget his first winter in Norman Wells.

“It was so cold. It was the coldest I’ve ever been in my whole life. The movies don’t have anything like that. It was so different but you get used to it after a while. It’s my home now but nothing can prepare you for that Norman Wells winter.”

This report was filed by BP Sports Niagara, which is owned and operated by Bernie Puchalski and Bill Potrecz.

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