Fortunately for us, the weather cleared and we were able to make it to Iqaluit. Unfortunately, we arrived after the tournament started. The high school, the venue where the tournament was being held, was a zoo of people, and I was trying to figure out what classroom we had been assigned as our change room/sleeping quarters. Oh yes, to make things even more interesting, I was told we had a game in 20 minutes. Just what anyone wants to hear after a 3 hour flight.
In any event the team managed to get dressed and ready. They had a pretty good showing, considering how many hoops they had had to jump through to even get there, scoring a last minute goal to eck out a tie against a pretty strong little team from Clyde River. (If memory serves correct, we played a second game later that evening and lost by a goal to the team we would eventually face in the finals. I suppose at this point I'm giving away the story a bit.)
At any rate, after a respectable round robin and a semi-final romp (a 5-1 victory I believe it was), we ended up in the final against the team we knew would be the team to beat. This was actually a great game. Both sides were evenly matched and I wish I could have just been a spectator rather than the coach so I could have relaxed a bit more. Speaking of spectators, the crowd really grew. We were used to the fans being made up mostly of the opposition in the past and while I'm sure there were a few people who were drawn to watch this little team who I'm sure no one thought would be playing a game like this, we actually had a pretty decent-sized cheering section rooting for us. How many people can say that your local MLA showed up to watch you play an indoor soccer game?
The boys worked hard....and made their opponents work hard too. After full time the game was tied and after an overtime period, the teams were still deadlocked. I remember the tournament organizers brought in their most senior ref to make sure things were done by the book. The gym was packed full of people watching. I know I was shaking. I just wanted this win soo bad for the boys.
Even the shoot out solved nothing. I think we traded a goal each but that was it. The referee later told me he had never seen anything like this happen in his experience. At this point there wasn't anything to do but sit on the bench and wait, keep the kids focused and give my shooters some advice on where to aim their shots. Shot, save, shot, save, shot, save. It went on for an interminably long time. Finally my top sniper scored on a bullet of a shot. This was it! One more save and they'd done it. Now, remember that young kid I told you about earlier in goal? I couldn't help but think what a treat this would be for him. I'd seen him bullied and picked on by a few kids in the community and I had seen him rise above it and help take his team a heck of a long way. This was his moment just as much as everyone else's on the team. And a heck of a crowd was watching.
In an instant it was over. A hard short for sure but right into the numbers. He caught the ball and hung on firmly for the win. His win. Their win.
Now, the next several minutes remain a bit of a blur with all that jumping, back slapping and celebrating. I do remember a funny moment where me and one of my players attempted a high-5 and missing in our excitement, bopping each other on the nose.
You can read my original blogpost here if you like. People always ask me what I like most about my time spent in Nunavut. Yes, the scenery is magnificent and I'm not sure how many photos I have of certain mountain backdrops or snowy vistas. But it is this one human element that I think I will always remember and cherish the most.
Now, whenever I hear someone say something is impossible or a waste of time, I catch myself thinking....you know, there was this one group of kids I worked with one year when I was in Nunavut.....and they accomplished great things.