Spotlight - Men's Soccer Team in Benin




LANGLEY, British Columbia –
The Trinity Western University men’s soccer team recently returned from a two-week missions trip to Benin, from April 27 to May 10, where they built wells for clean water through Global Aid Network’s (GAiN) Water for Life Initiative, helped run soccer clinics, constructed a church structure in a remote village and played three matches against local clubs.

With each well that is built, approximately 1,000 people are given clean water and, through GAiN, which is currently dedicated to drilling 70 wells per year in Benin, the Spartans men’s soccer team had the opportunity to help build four wells.

The players also had ample opportunities to use their soccer backgrounds to build meaningful relationships with the local people and, at the same time, spread the word of God through sport. Through a lot of hard work, a lot of testimonial sharing and a lot of relationship building, upon the team’s return coach Pat Rohla expressed that his goal of doing “something different” was, extreme heat and oddly fried eggs included, most definitely “mission accomplished.”

“We were just trying to break down a whole bunch of barriers that are pretty strong in the village areas mixed with voodoo and stuff like that,” said Spartans captain Gogo Vitic (Surrey, B.C.). “We were trying to go in and love on these people, and especially the kids, to further the Gospel.”

And if the group wasn’t mixing cement for the wells or hauling trees out of the forest for a church structure, they were interacting with the locals. And while French is the main language spoken in Benin, soccer was a common tongue.

“It was so easy. We would just roll a ball out and kids would come from everywhere,” said fifth-year defender Brayden Volkenant (Surrey, B.C.). “We wouldn’t have to have too much structure. They just loved playing the game and it was pretty awesome to see.”

And for the Spartans, the impact of the two-week venture was something they certainly will never forget.

“It is life changing to see people that have so little that are so happy,” Rohla said. “It gives us an appreciation for what we have here. It gives us an incentive to go and do some more. It just changes our perspective on a lot of values we have here.”

Brayden’s brother and third-year defender, Rhys Volkenant (Surrey, B.C.), added: “They joy of the people is something I have heard of, but it’s totally different when you experience it. Just seeing how happy the people are with very little and seeing how much they love the game of soccer is awesome. And for those who are Christians, they are certainly passionate about Jesus Christ.”

And specifically for Rhys, sharing his testimony to a crowd of people after one particular game was an experience he will forever remember.

“After every time we played soccer with them, one of us would share our testimony,” Rhys said. “I was fortunate enough to be able to tell mine after one game. And after I was done, they asked if anyone would like to come to Christ and about 30 people put their hands up, which was amazing to see God using me and other guys on our team to spread his word to another part of the world.”

Upon returning to Canada, the strengthening of relationships within the team is something that will no doubt go a long way in developing every aspect of the Spartans men’s soccer program, this year and for the future.

“I know it will have long last affect for the team, for the program and for the guys who went on the trip,” Rohla said. “There will be a really strong bond in a lot of different ways, both on the field and off.”

“The amount of conversation that happened and the amount of actually getting to know what guys believe and what’s going on in their lives and opening up to each other was crazy. And now I’m sure we can all say easily that when we play now, we’re definitely playing for the guy right beside us.”


About Spartan Athletics
Since Trinity Western entered the CIS in 1999, Spartan student-athletes have accumulated a number of significant awards including a CIS Athlete of the Year (BLG) award, four CIS Player of the Year awards, a CIS Elite Eight Academic All-Canadian award, three CIS Rookie of the Year awards, a CIS Libero of the Year award, three CIS community service awards and numerous CIS All-Canadian and Canada West All-Star awards. In twelve years as members of the CIS, the Spartans have won six national titles (women’s soccer in 2004, 2008, 2009 and men’s volleyball in 2006, 2011), 15 CIS championship medals, an individual CIS championship in track and seven Canada West championships.

About TWU
Trinity Western University, in Langley, BC, is a provincially chartered, independent Christian liberal arts, sciences, and professional studies university, enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers 42 undergraduate majors, ranging from biotechnology, education, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include nursing, counselling psychology, marriage and family therapy, business, theology, linguistics, and leadership, and interdisciplinary degrees in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Developmental Genetics and Disease, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.

About Canada West Universities Athletic Association
Canada West is consistently the most decorated of the four conferences in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), winning at least 10 CIS national titles every year, 1997 to 2010. Comprised of 14 schools, from the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, the CWUAA produces numerous major award winners and Academic All-Canadian student-athletes each year, with many going on to athletic success around the globe in pro leagues or events such as the Olympics, Paralympics or Universiade Games. “cwuaa” on Twitter.

About Canadian Interuniversity Sport
Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. Fifty-one universities, 10,000 student-athletes and 550 coaches vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. CIS also provides high performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, as well as numerous world university championships. For further information, visit



Last Updated: 2011-06-09
Author: Mark Janzen