Futbol for all
Toronto Futbol Athletic Advancement provides top-tier competitive soccer training programs to at-risk youth or low-income residents in the Regent Park area.
Driving with Kevin Zevallos, Executive Director and Founder of Toronto Futbol Athletic Advancement (TFAA), to his Queen Street office for our interview, you could tell just how much he loved soccer as he talked about his work and its impact to the Regent Park community.
Kevin has played soccer all his life. As a coach, he understands how expensive soccer training can be in Toronto, especially if you have potential. Costs can prevent good players from entering or remaining in the sport and Kevin wanted to change that by improving access for everyone. In 2018, Kevin and his friend, Mohamed Ahmed, co-founded TFAA, an academy and recreational soccer league, whose mandate is to provide top-tier competitive soccer training programs to at-risk youth or low-income residents in the Regent Park area.
“Prices were ridiculous. People were paying $2,000 to $5,000 for a season. We said, why don’t we create this program for youth because we have the background for it,” said Kevin.
Word of the academy spread quickly, and TFAA broadened its programming to include new developmental programs, coaching opportunities, indoor programs, and competitive tournaments. The program was not only popular in Regent Park but drew youth from across TCHC communities such as St. Lawrence, Moss Park, and St. James Town.
With a huge amount of public interest came the challenge of finding space. Fortunately, with the support of several public schools in the area, such as Jarvis Collegiate Institute, Sprucecourt and Lord Dufferin Public School, TFAA was allowed to run their programs in their gymnasiums. This meant that players wouldn’t have to travel far from the downtown core. “Travelling is hard, and we want to make sure it takes parents only five to 10 minutes of walking or driving to these places” said Kevin.
Kevin knows that soccer is not just about kicking a ball and that it teaches life skills. He explains, “It's more of a lifestyle. It teaches you about working in a team environment, respect and having a work ethic. That’s what we need to instill in our children and youth to help them succeed in life.”
Faiz Saleh, a TFAA participant supports this sentiment. “TFAA has taught me resilience, resourcefulness, the importance of networking, and the significance of community in a person’s life,” said Faiz when asked how the organization has impacted his life.
Faiz also expressed his gratitude to TFAA for allowing him to play soccer without having to worry about financial constraints. “Thank you to TFAA for providing hope because playing the sport you love should not be dependent on the size of your bank account, but rather your skillset.”
TCHC has contributed to TFAA’s cause by providing over 130 summer league uniforms for youth last summer. Kevin says that “Working with TCHC gives us the ability to work with a partner that has the same ideas as us—which is giving low-income communities opportunities to excel.”