More than hockey, more than basketball, more than baseball or football, soccer is the international game that brings the world together. The popularity of the sport — which has seen a steady rise in the traditionally unfriendly territory of (north) North America, where the 2026 World Cup will be held — and its ability to unify even as it divides team followers was part of the impetus for GOAL, a local festival of “footy culture” that has made a mark on the city every July for the past nine years.
This year, GOAL is expanding in two ways. First, the main event on July 7 will be preceded by a wellness-oriented day on July 6, featuring non-alcoholic drinks, healthier food options and even more family-friendly activities. Second, the charitable aspect of the event has been legitimized with the government certification of the Goal Initiatives Foundation, which promotes sports and physical activity by providing equipment to youth sports organizations in need, among other things. Proceeds from the vendor village will benefit Dans la rue on July 6 and Share the Warmth and Montreal Community Cares on July 7, maintaining the relationship between GOAL and other Montreal charities.
Entry is free for both events, which take place at McGill Stadium and promise dozens of kiosks with food, drinks, games, talks, haircuts, tattoos, massage and more. The main draw, of course, is the soccer, both on the jumbotron (this year it’s the semi-final and final of the Women’s World Cup) and on the field. As usual, the July 7 teams will be made up of staff from local bars and restaurants, but GOAL is opening up team membership on July 6 to people from other industries who want to donate as a group, get pampered on site and hit the field.
While healthy living will dominate the scene on July 6, the Goal event on July 7 also has a theme: women in sports, well-timed with the Women’s World Cup final. As Goal co-founder Paul Desbaillets explains, inclusivity has always been embedded in Goal tournaments.
“The field has always been mixed — there’s never a moment where there’s not a mix of boys and girls, it’s actually written in the rules,” he says. “It’s ridiculous that we actually have to do that, and that in 2019 we’re still talking about this, but unfortunately it’s taking forever to become the norm and people seem to fucking need constant reminders that it should be the norm. So since it’s not, GOAL has made sure that there are always two girls on the pitch; it’s only five a side, and if you don’t [have two girls] you lose the game.”
As with the game itself, the appeal of GOAL lies in its inclusivity and accessibility and in its social nature, not to mention the added good vibe of its charitable aim. Having fun, feeling good AND giving to a good cause while you’re at it is a trifecta for a great summer day in Montreal.
“Major sporting events like the World Cup or Euro or Copa really bring everybody together under the big umbrella of football, and that’s the key of sport: to come together and partake in festivities,” says Desbaillets. “The goal for GOAL was always to bring the community together, boys and girls, using football as an opportunity to hang out and enjoy the day on common ground.” ■
GOAL Wellness is happening on Saturday, July 6, GOAL MTL on Sunday, July 7. Both events are at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium (475 des Pins W.), 11 a.m.–6 p.m., free entry. Go to the Goal Initiatives Foundation website for more details, to donate and to register to play.