If anybody knows the value of youth soccer, it’s Azim Valji. The Edmontonian leads somewhat of a double life, spending his days in the operating room at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, and his nights on the sidelines drawing up strategies.
Dr. Valji has spent the better part of the past two decades now coaching his four children, most recently finding himself behind the clipboard for his youngest son’s U-17 team at the Victoria Soccer Club.
So when the opportunity arose to support both the Royal Alexandra and FreeFootie—a local non-profit that provides underprivileged kids a chance to play soccer for free, it was an easy decision for the Thoraric surgeon.
“For me, it’s just a small thing I can do to help these kids in the inner city. The kids that we’re supporting through FreeFootie are in the inner city, and may or may not visit the hospital very much.”
With his $1000 donation of FC Edmonton Commando Pack’s to FreeFootie, Dr. Valji hopes to provide kids with the chance to play soccer and create memories they otherwise may not have had the opportunity to make.
“My memories are the comradery at such a young age, and just being able to go to a game with six other guys in the car” he laughed as he fondly remembered piling into a teammates Dad’s station wagon after school before heading to games.
“The biggest thing for me for soccer, aside from exercise and physical activity, is it’s probably one of the easiest sports to play” he said. “For kids to get involved they only require minimal supports. There’s so many kids that want to play that can’t.”
In addition to coaching his kids and playing the game himself, Dr. Valji has been a loyal supporter of professional soccer in Edmonton as far back as the Edmonton Drillers teams of the late 70s and early 80s. As for FC Edmonton, he’s been here since pretty much day one, and estimates he and his kids make it out to around approximately 75% of home games each year.
So whether he’s crammed in the back of an old station wagon, on the sidelines coaching one of his kids, or in the bleachers of Clarke Stadium on a hot summer day, Dr. Valji’s life has always been impacted by soccer.
With his donation, he hopes someone else’s can be too.