• Ketsia N'kumbu

A Black Canadian Story

Being a Canadian football fan is interesting. Coming from a country where hockey dominates and where there is more snow than there is the sun, it is difficult for people to believe that there is a football culture here when it is probably the coolest football culture there is. When we look at players like Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Kadeisha Buchanan (who won five Champions League titles in a row… by the way), who are leading European footballers and is currently putting Canada on the world map, what can we say about the hundreds of thousands of kids that are looking up to them?

They are paving a way for many people, showing that it is possible to have People of Canadian nationality and black ethnicity on big stages. We have a professional league, people working in major football federations from the UEFA to Premier League clubs, we’ve hosted three World Cups (including two women’s tournaments) and we’re set to host a World Cup in five years, yet we don’t know our football? Okay.

Before anything else, Canada is a cultural melting pot. Many people who immigrated here come from Africa, Europe, South America, and many other regions. Being born from African parents, football has been in the picture way before I was born, it was simply passed down to me. My dad was a football player in the past and my grandfather was also involved in important positions within football. My story with football is just as valid as anybody else’s and my location takes nothing out of it, if anything, it adds more uniqueness to it. It’s a crazy mix of cultures but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For example, we don’t wait for the snow to melt to play, we play in it. We get nutmegged with ice cubes. Whether it’s 25 degrees or -20, we’ll be outside with winter boots or football boots. If it’s too cold, we cover fields and create domes. Whatever the situation is, we find a way, it’s crazy, but so much fun. Being black in sports is very challenging, but it’s nothing we haven’t experienced in the past. It’s like trying to run a marathon with a ball and chain on our ankle. Nevertheless, with everything that 2020 has given us, people need to realize that we’re not taking any of it anymore.

Players have power, the show doesn’t exist without them, regardless of the sport. There is no number of zeros on a check that is bigger than the worth of a person. Let’s not forget that players are people before anything else. Whatever affects us affects them too.

I can see that the number of black people participating in sports in areas other than on the field is growing, and as a result, a flood of black owners, head coaches, delegates and media are experiencing a huge rise and encourage more to believe in their talents instead of trying to be where everyone else is.

Creators are the new voices for sports. We have no problems speaking on things that don’t make the headlines in fact, we want to talk about it. The community that is being built is impressive. There is no competition among us, just collaboration. We want to work together, create friendships, and help elevate each other as much as possible. This crazy year has allowed people to connect in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in other circumstances. The new wave of black creatives is coming in hot and is ready to stay, like it or not.

More women are taking their places and I am living for this. Many want to be there, but women of colour are barely present, and if they are… they barely get anything. I don’t want to be the face of diversity for anyone or fill a void for the sake of image, therefore I will never settle for less than what I know I can get. It has nothing to do with cockiness, but rather with the gift that I have been blessed with, my undeniable love for the game and the amount of work that I have put into learning the skills that I have mastered.

If we must create our own platforms, then so be it. I am glad to see more people my age, my colour and my gender in positions of power, influence or even just aspiring to achieve the same things as me. There is space for everyone, and I believe that by us all working together instead of against each other, we can create the waviest generation of black women in sports, hands down.

We all have stories to share in our own way, share our own experiences and create more diversity in a field that is so non-diverse. We belong there as much as anyone else and we want to be given opportunities to do so, to achieve this we have decided to go after them ourselves, and evidently, through me, I have shown it worked. I am optimistic for a more equal and tolerant football environment, but this cannot be done on its own. For the game to change, you need people who are there to change it. So here we are.

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