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A local soccer player will represent Canada in Madrid –

A local soccer player will represent Canada in Madrid –

Gabriela Friesen began her career on the soccer field and would soon join the U14 national team to compete on the world stage in Madrid, Spain. The 12-year-old defender and goalkeeper has been playing soccer since she first put on her shin pads, and has been particularly focused on the sport over the past year in pursuit of her passion. Having recently progressed to the U14 age group, Gabriella now spends up to 6 days a week on the pitch and continues her individual training in the few free hours she can find at home.

Although her grades don't reflect it, the demands of being an athlete can add a unique challenge to academics. Friesen said it takes a little extra hard work to fit everything into her busy schedule.

“You'll definitely miss a few days of school for tournaments,” Friesen admitted. “I'll be away for a week and a half from Madrid, so it might be difficult to deal with all that extra homework. I want to be able to focus while I'm on the field and I'll be way behind if I wait.” Until we get back, that means staying up late the night before my flight.”

Her mother, Tammy, added that Gabriella had to hone her time management skills to find a balance between soccer, school and time spent with friends. She even had to give up some other extracurricular activities to keep up with her dedication to the sport.

“I was involved in choir and was doing mixed martial arts before I turned to soccer,” Gabriella said. “It was a difficult choice to give up on these things because I really loved them, but the timing was difficult, so in the end I chose football because I have been playing it longer.”

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Her dedication has certainly paid off. After seizing her opportunity at a development camp in Toronto last summer, Gabriella was recognized for her intensity by coaches searching for talent for the Canadian U14 team to compete in the 2024 Madrid World Challenge. Although she has remained competitive in tournaments above her age group, However, Friesen said she was shocked when she learned that she had been selected for the junior team.

“To be honest, I'm surprised I actually got it,” she admitted. “When we got there, I realized I was the only girl in my group and there were only 12 goalkeepers in the whole camp. I thought for sure one of the boys would get that spot. I was also thinking that all these players from Toronto would probably come from Such big clubs and so much more experience, and I'm there from the little town of Weyburn in Saskatchewan. “It was a huge shock when I was chosen.”


Now on her way to sharing the pitch with up to 20 other international teams, Gabriella can see that the investments made by her coaching staff and the local club have been well founded. She particularly credits Tyler (Coach 'T') Hilstead of the Weyburn Football Association for the focus he placed in her development, and she continues to appreciate how her club culture allows its athletes to flourish.

“All my coaches are great,” she said. “Coach Mike in Regina has helped me with a lot of goalkeeping stuff, but especially Coach T. He’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had. But you know, it’s like a family in Weyburn.” . “I know everyone on the team, so we're all comfortable learning from each other, and it makes things a lot easier.”

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Gfriesenteamcanada(Photo courtesy of the Weyburn Football Association)

The Weyburn Football Association took its support for Gabriella to a whole new level when it was confirmed she would be traveling to Spain. To help with some travel costs, WSA has contributed $1,000 toward its expenses. But with the whole experience costing thousands more, Gabriella is continuing to fundraise ahead of her passing in late March — even spending her own money to cover the bill.

“We're selling cheesecakes in a jar now as a fundraiser, and it's going really well. I think we've sold 97 cakes now. I'm saving a lot of money though. Like all my pocket money and all that, it's just my go-to place now.” “This trip is coming faster than I expected, seeing as how it's already the end of February,” Friesen said.


Supporters can purchase the jars for just $10 each at the general store in downtown Weyburn. They can also contribute to Gabriela's journey to the Madrid World Challenge by heading up to her Facebook page To make a special request.

Gabriella will leave for Spain on March 20 where she will spend the first few days getting to know her team and enjoying the new scene. The tournament will take place from the 25th to the 28th, before the closing ceremony on the 29th. These athletes in attendance will not only enjoy the experience of international competition, but will also receive a private tour of Real Madrid's Arena, adding to the experience of a lifetime.


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