Late night kicks: Top of the City festival brings round-the-clock soccer to Edmonton

A soccer match takes place in Forest Heights Park with the city skyline in the background. Ed Kaiser / Edmonton Journal

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A soccer festival this weekend is taking the meaning of overtime to a whole new level.

About 100 soccer players from all over the city will play for 36 hours straight to raise money for the YMCA at the second-ever Top of the City soccer festival, founded by Coun. Jon Dziadyk.

Dziadyk noticed during his campaign in Ward 3 that there was a lot of love for soccer in the communities he represents but not a lot of opportunity to celebrate the sport outside of the professional leagues in the city.

“As much as we’re known as a festival city, there’s no major north-side festivals,” said Dziadyk in his office Wednesday, noting that soccer is a global game with a very low cost of entry. “I also have a lot of newcomers that I represent … and this is one way to, for me as the city councillor, to say that the city is also listening and trying to accommodate them with some unique and fun programming.”

Scaling up

Last year, the 36-hour outdoor game was hosted at the Evansdale Community League and fully organized by Dziadyk’s team. This year, the festival is being “scaled up” and moved to the Castle Downs Park next to the YMCA and Dziadyk is part of a larger organizing committee for the festival.

The game — which any adult of any ability can register online to play in for $50 — is the “backbone” of the festival, starting from Friday evening to Sunday morning, but there will be plenty of family fun to be had during the whole weekend.

“It’s going to be a bit of an atmosphere of just food and fun as well,” said Dziadyk, noting that there will be live music, games, a kids soccer tournament, food and drink to enjoy throughout the game as well.

So far, close to 50 spots have been filled, and Dziadyk hopes to hit 100 once again this year. Players will be treated well, too, with free food, rest and nap areas during their off shifts, and free massage therapy and access to the premium change rooms at the YMCA.

Teams and shifts will be allocated to be as evenly matched as possible, and players are welcome to note if they have other commitments and cannot play during a certain period of the game. Dziadyk stressed that you don’t have to be a Christine Sinclair or a David Beckham to get out on the field for a good cause.

In fact, he hopes that the rise in professional soccer through FC Edmonton and a potential bid to host an upcoming FIFA World Cup will help more people discover the sport in the city.

“It’ll be a little bit of a celebration of summer and soccer at the same time.”

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