A Community in the Stands at Don Bosco Opener
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A Community in the Stands at Don Bosco Opener

Doug Ford maintained recently that when Don Bosco players look up at the stands during a game, they don't see their parents, but they do see the mayor. We went to the team's season opener to see who was there.

The mother of a Don Bosco player cheers as he runs into the endzone. Photo by Julia Nika.

As Don Bosco Catholic Secondary senior team quarterback Trevelle Wisdom rumbles down the field with the football, his mother, Paula, and sister, Tichina, jump and holler from the sideline: “Go, go! Yes, great run!” Wisdom is leading his Eagles to a rout of the visitors from Chaminade Secondary School, the team that upset Bosco to advance to the district finals last year. It’s Tuesday afternoon and the Eagles’ season opener.

In between plays, Paula tells us she almost never misses her son’s games and practices with the school team, as well as his summer league. “I’m extremely proud,” she says with a smile.

Tichina, too, is a fixture at Trevelle’s games, and sometimes rearranges her work schedule to cheer him on. When we mention Councillor Doug Ford’s recent comment that Bosco players “look up in the stands and they don’t see a father, they don’t see a mother, they see Rob Ford standing there and supporting them,” she gestures and says bluntly, “That’s simply not true, as you can see if you look at the stands.”

Indeed, dozens of students, parents, local residents, scouts, and school staff are soaking up the late-September sunshine, many of them erupting on leaping catches and crunching tackles. Some are following the play along the sideline, yelling instructions and singing praises. Bosco student Julia Nika snaps pictures as she chats with parents and friends (you can see one of them at the top of this post). “I’ve been doing this for five years now,” says Nika, whose brother is an Eagles football alumni now studying at University of Toronto. “Everybody’s really good about coming out an supporting the team.”

Mohiadin Eyow, a soft-spoken Somali man, walks slowly along the sidelines with his three children. Unfazed by the Catholic school uniforms, Eyow is handing out brochures on Islam and copies of the Koran. He says that Islam, like football, teaches young people discipline, “because you have to pray; you have to do da’wah [inviting others to convert] in your community.” His kids, who are playing close by, help him rhyme off actions considered haram, or forbidden to Muslims: smoking, drinking, doing drugs, engaging in violence, having sex out of wedlock.

Eyow’s kids don’t go to Bosco, but he comes to watch the games and to find his next convert. He gestures across the field to Bosco’s coach, Mayor Rob Ford, who stands with folded arms on the opposite sideline. “He’s been around since even before he became mayor,” Eyow says, adding that Ford has made appearances at his older son’s soccer games. He also recalls Ford accepting a Koran after a football practice, and was impressed when they mayor offered, “just let me go wash my hands first.” Eyow likes how the games “bring everybody together: black, white, brown—it doesn’t matter.”

Bosco principal Usi Rocco is as proud of the gathering as anyone. He boasts that sometimes “200 students will come out, in a school of 600.” He says the parents are extremely involved, too: “they’ll sometimes book off half a day’s work to come to events.” For Rocco, school spirit extends beyond sports to efforts like a Saturday literacy program, which has help the school boost its literacy scores in recent years. “It’s a community. I have two children of my own at home, and 600 adopted children at Bosco.”

The game ends with complete redemption for Bosco, a 37–0 shutout of their rivals. Players step off the field to greet friends and family. Paula is happy with the effort, but notes that her friend, who coaches Chaminade, “is not gonna be happy.” Turning to her daughter, she sighs, “of all the games we didn’t tape for your dad!”