By Marc Weber - Vancouver Province - LINK to Story

LANGLEY, British Columbia — Natalie Boyd rejoined the Vancouver Whitecaps women this week with a deeper gratitude for soccer and life.

The 21-year-old midfielder from South Surrey recently returned from an 18-day trip to South Africa and Swaziland.

Boyd and her Trinity Western University teammates ran soccer clinics, worked at orphanages, spoke at schools and played games on a missions trip that TWU does every two years. It was in partnership with Athletes in Action.

“You definitely come home with a new appreciation for what you have, and your health, and just the opportunities that girls have here to play sport,” said Boyd, who played for the Whitecaps’ W-League team in 2009 and 2010 before spending last summer abroad.

Boyd and her university teammates spent time in Pretoria and Johannesburg and a week in the small town of Bulembu in Swaziland.

Swaziland has the world’s highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS, according to health organizations, with 26 per cent of the population living with the virus. In 2009, almost 70,000 children were orphaned because of HIV and AIDS.

“The kids were sick but very positive,” said Boyd, who helped run soccer sessions for upwards of 200 kids at a time, greeted often by traditional Swazi song and dance.

“They had some heart-breaking stories. It was a heavy trip, but it was fun.”

The team visited Kruger National Park and had a chance to play South Africa’s national women’s team, the Banyana Banyana, in Pretoria.

South Africa, ranked 65th by FIFA, is in Canada’s group for the London Olympics. Trinity Western held their own in a 1-0 loss.

They had the privilege of playing that game where Spain had trained for the 2010 World Cup, but Boyd was surprised by the general lack of a legacy from FIFA’s showcase event.

“It was a couple of years ago but, if you saw the fields now, outside of the big stadiums, you wouldn’t be able to tell,” she said.

Boyd’s had quite the international adventure of late.

Wanting a new experience last summer, she played for Newtonabbey in Northern Ireland.

And along with current Whitecaps’ teammate Janine Frazao, who plays for UBC, Boyd was a member of Canada’s World University Games team in China. There, Canada played the hosts in front of 30,000 fans.

Boyd returns to a Whitecaps side that’s 0-3 out of the gate.

Only the top two teams in the Western Conference make the playoffs. It’s a 14-game season and both the Colorado Rush and Pali Blues are off to 3-0 starts.

The Whitecaps host the Colorado Rapids tonight at 7 p.m. at Chilliwack’s Exhibition Stadium.

“The players are really motivated, the staff is really motivated, and we’re ready,” said Whitecaps coach Jesse Symons. “We know we’ve dug a hole, but the team is in good spirits to push through.”

Colorado’s lineup features a pair of Danish internationals and, coincidentally, a South African, Ode Fulutudilu, a speedy forward from Lee University in Tennessee.

Boyd won’t feature in tonight’s game. She fell ill after returning from her trip to South Africa and is just working her way into the squad.

With the W-League standard raised by the suspension of Women’s Professional Soccer this season, minutes will be harder to come by for the younger Whitecaps like Boyd.

Symons, though, speaks highly of Boyd’s character. He named her captain of the Whitecaps’ U-18 prospects when he coached that program.

“She has special leadership qualities,” he said. “She’s so caring to her teammates, has a great pulse on the players and really makes a team tick.

“She’s quite a special person for sure and she’s got the right attitude to make it. She’s a competitor.”

She’s also a player who’s immensely thankful for a sport that’s helped put her through school and allowed her to experience the world both its joys and harsh realities.


Friday, 7 p.m.

Colorado Rapids (1-0-0) at Whitecaps (0-3-0)

Exhibition Stadium, Chilliwack


Last Updated: 2012-06-01
Author: Mark Janzen