Friday Night Soccer fosters community in spite of unofficial status this year


Jocelyn Nuñez-Colón

Students play Friday Night Soccer at Phi Chi field on Oct. 1.

The chilly October wind picks up. The sun steals away with its autumn grace. No one notices. Teammates call across the field to each other as someone kicks the ball. Hard. A player curses as it flies high then hurtles towards the ground in a blur of black and white. The struggles of the past week fade in the players’ minds.

As trees become bare and the weather grows cold, for Friday Night Soccer, these are the last days to catch a good game outdoors. 

Friday Night Soccer was chartered in 2014 to serve as an avenue to unite soccer players from different backgrounds, ages and skill levels. While it didn’t make the cut-off for official student organization status this fall, its members are determined to keep the games going. Students are pitching in with their own gear in the absence of funding, and the club uses word of mouth to substitute promotion benefits. Games are held on the Phi Chi field every Friday at 5 p.m.

Last year, the club’s activity was limited by COVID restrictions against close-contact sports. Club membership decreased as students grew tired of waiting for restrictions to lighten.

“I had people on my neck trying to play every week,” Damola Shobowale, unofficial FNS president, said. “For some people, it’s more than a game … everyone needs that mental break from everything.”

The club got the chance to facilitate a few final games in late spring of 2021 after Calvin relaxed some of its outdoor restrictions.

The club could not participate in Cokes and Club this semester and did not receive its typical funding from Calvin. Without abundant resources, Shobowale’s priority is to keep FNS active, then recharter for spring 2022 when the opportunity presents itself.

He said he believes the club’s vision is important and felt it’s his responsibility to uphold its legacy.

Ethan Kaiser, a 2020 graduate, handed over the presidency to Shobowale. He supported the preservation of the club.

“While intramurals and Calvin teams cultivate a sense of team, the goal of FNS is to cultivate a community,” Kaiser said. 

Although most participants are current Calvin students, the club was designed to reach a broad set of people. It remains active through the summer with games twice a week and attracts the attention of non-student players from time to time. Occasionally, alumni will drop by to join in a game.

International students in particular have found a place in the FNS community. Many said they grew up playing soccer and consider it a beloved sport.

August Shi is a senior from China who joined the club last year and has attended every game since then. “It’s a worldwide sport … I think it’s definitely helpful that we can have a common sport here for international students to play,” he said. Shi added that he plans to attend the weekly games until he graduates.

“It’s definitely a good way to connect with people,” Shi said.

Vennisa Owusu-Barfi is a junior from Ghana who’s been playing for three years. “When I came here, I couldn’t join the team because of the time and commitment,” she said. “It’s nice to play with people and not have to feel the pressure. You don’t have to be amazing.”

Freshman Milavi Wanasika joined FNS this semester and attends the soccer games with his roommate. “It’s what I use to sort of ease out and end the week on a good note,” said Wanasika. He also said the games help him further new relationships.

Shobowale encouraged students to stop by and join in a game whenever they have the chance: “We’re open to everyone.”