Olympic soccer star supported by prayer


Abbotsford friends host reception for hometown girl Sophie Schmidt

By Barrie McMaster, MB Herald reporter, with files from Mennonite World Review

For serious athletes, life has many ironies. To succeed—say, at the Olympic level—you must play your sport constantly, doggedly following the seasons around the world. You can rarely be home.

It’s like that for Sophie Schmidt of Abbotsford, B.C., a midfielder for Canada’s 2012 bronze-medal-winning Olympic women’s soccer team who calls King Road MB Church home. While she isn’t in Abbotsford often, King Road MB Church friends support her and root for her while she travels the globe.

Kicking off some scarce downtime prior to her planned departure to play soccer in Germany in the off-season, Schmidt received a warm hometown reception Aug. 18-19 from fans, friends, and family in Abbotsford. Some 150 well-wishers gathered Saturday night to pay tribute to her London 2012 achievements, which include two assists along with a bronze medal. Schmidt had a chance to personally thank the people of her home church for their prayers and love when the King Road congregation honored her during the Sunday worship service.

Though she’s away from King Road more than she is present, “I may not remember all the names, but it certainly is my church,” she says.

Saturday evening Schmidt posed for pictures and autographed untold numbers of local soccer team shirts and soccer balls. She was gracious, available and humble – a true star.

She referred to the now-infamous Olympic semifinal game with the U.S., in which controversial refereeing calls affected Canada’s aspirations for a gold medal. It was a hard night, Schmidt said. “But Canada picked us up. There were so many messages of support and love,” she said.

Speaking privately, she says simply, “I try not to dwell too much on the things I can’t control. I try to play as hard as can. I’m grateful to God that I have gifts in soccer. I try to play to the best of my ability. If I’ve left everything I can on that field, I have peace.”

The year 2012 marked Schmidt’s second Olympics. Her first occurred in 2008 in Beijing, when she was 20 and still attending the University of Portland. As a university graduate, Schmidt had planned to go on to study nursing but decided a medical career would wait. Right now, Schmidt’s focus is on her passion—soccer. Veterans tell her to play while she can. Most players peak at 25 or 26, she says. She’s now 24 and looking forward to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Born in Winnipeg, Man., Schmidt was three years old when she and her family moved to Filadelfia, Paraguay, the birthplace of her parents.

“My younger years playing soccer in Paraguay paved the way for where I am at now,” she said in an email interview with Mennonite World Review prior to the Olympics. “There is nothing more enjoyable than following your brother around and being able to play pickup soccer with him and his friends. It instilled a love for the game which has never left.”

The family moved back to Canada when Schmidt was seven. While her brother immediately began playing soccer after their move, it was two years before Schmidt’s parents let her resume playing. “I think that the dreams of my mother, for me, had to change over time. I wanted to play soccer more than anything.”

Her professional career began close to home when she played with the Vancouver Whitecaps from 2005 to 2014. She played one season in Florida before signing a contract with Kristianstads DFF, a club in Sweden. Playing for a German team will allow her to use her German-language skills from her childhood in Paraguay.

While not so unusual among Canadian Mennonites, Schmidt’s background can be a bit confusing to her teammates. Why would she grow up speaking German? Why would she spend part of her childhood in Paraguay? What they do understand is that Schmidt is a Christian, even if they joke that she is Amish.

“My faith is a big part of my life,” says Schmidt. Because she moves around so much, Schmidt says, “it’s sometimes hard to keep Christ-centered. But I try to live his love. I make a conscious effort to live a Christian life.” She adds, “There is so much support at home for me, and so much prayer. I appreciate it!”


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