Syrian kids find soccer, and love it

Hamilton Spectator Milton - Maisam Al Sawadi touches the artificial turf at Tim Hortons Field for the first time and he is impressed.

"It's beautiful," says the nine-year-old Syrian refugee, who's in Grade 3 at Cathy Wever School. "I like it more than real grass. It's not long, it's short and nice."

Although he plays pickup games with friends at school, Maisam has never played organized soccer before, but he's only a few days away from getting his chance.

When the second season of the ArcelorMittal Grassroots Soccer Program — for children ages 5 to 13 living in the general vicinity of the stadium — begins at Tim Hortons Field with uniform distribution Tuesday and the first games July 12, it will expand from 100 players to 500.

And 110 of them, more than 20 per cent of the enrolment, will be Syrian refugees who have immigrated to Hamilton in the past few months.

"Canada is very diversified now, we're a country of many ethnicities. I think our city is a melting pot and this is an example of what our city really is."