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  • Loree Rayback

Futsal: U16 Males, Females Play Hard and Sapmi Cohesive Plays Pay Off

Shoes squeaked on the polished hardwood gym floor and the crowd called out encouragement to blue- and red-clad U16 female Futsal players running back and forth across the court this afternoon. A woman next to me spoke up, “It’s the first game of the day, and it’s a good one!”

Squeezing onto the packed bleachers, I found myself a seat just as the game was nearing its end. With a deep thud, the ball hit the goalpost and bounced into the net, causing the spectators to cheer, or groan loudly, depending on which team they were rooting for. Alberta North scored! The Alberta North and Yukon U16 females played hard for the final few minutes of the game, and Alberta North secured the win with a final score of 2-1.

Next up was Sápmi v Alaska, U16 male division. Sápmi scored four minutes into the game and continued to score regularly with machine-like precision throughout the game. Team Alaska kept up their high energy, covering all corners of the court, but saved most of their goal attempts for the second half. The Sápmi team members worked well together, synchronized, setting up plays, and executing them with a clear strategy.

“This is a really good team!” I overheard one impressed spectator say to a friend.

At halftime, the scoreboard read 7-0. Despite Team Alaska playing much closer to their opponents and making more bold goal attempts during the second period, Sápmi was the stronger team in the end, winning the game 10-4.

After the game, Sápmi players Nipa Aasprong, Leon Nergård Boine, Vegjørn Torle, were elated with the win as they gathered their gear and stopped to chat with me. Sápmi is a cultural region that includes the countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, and most players on the Sápmi team are bilingual, if not trilingual. “English is actually my third language.” Torle noted with a smile. And contrary to what their team coordination might imply, the U16 male division Sápmi team had very little practice playing with one another until today.

“No, no, we haven’t practiced at all,” the players laughed. Boine explained. “We haven’t practiced as a team except for once at the tryouts.” Torle confirmed that the tryouts were back in November 2023, and they hadn’t played together as a team since then. Aasprong chimed in. “Out of twenty [players] at tryouts, [coaches] choose only nine people to compete at the Arctic Winter Games. We are happy to be playing here.”

Before bidding the players farewell, I tossed out one more question: what would you like to say to our Ulu News readers? Aasprong immediately clapped his hands together and cheered “Sápmi!” then clarified, “it’s the indigenous people. Sápmi!”


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