“It was raining and freezing cold, I could see smoke billowing off people’s heads during the first game,” Paul Desbaillets, owner of the restaurant Burgundy Lion in Montreal, said.
Seven years later, he’s still playing in the same tournament for the same cause — to raise money for charity.
Desbaillets is the founder of GOAL Montreal, a large-scale soccer tournament he organizes between Montreal restaurants that raises funds for local organizations every year.
Since 2010, GOAL has raised over $250,000 for non-profit organizations that support families, youth, social activities, and education. This year, funds from the tournament will go to Montreal Community Cares Foundation, Share the Warmth, and Global Citizen.
Desbaillets is a Global Citizen and recently rubbed elbows with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former President Barack Obama at Liverpool House, as well as with Sam Roberts at GC Plugged.
There will be 20 bars and restaurants playing in the GOAL Lions Cup Soccer Tournament, with an additional team of celebrities. The event, supported by Canada Soccer, will take place at Percival Molson Stadium on July 2, and will be hosted by iHeartRadio hosts Jason Rockman from CHOM and Patrick Langlois from Énergie.
Desbaillets says that he chose soccer as a way to raise money in part because it’s an easy sport to get people to play (because you don’t need any equipment), but also because it connects people. He says the idea came to him pretty naturally while working at his English pub.
“What goes better with England and pints than football?” he joked.
That combination seems to work, even in Montreal, according to Desbaillets.
Desbaillets organizes the event on his own, with help from volunteers; even though every year he swears will be his last, he says he loves what it accomplishes too much to let it go. He’s also very grateful for each restaurant team that donates $1,500 in order to participate.
His voice lights up when he talks about bringing various groups of people together. The restaurant teams that play aren’t people that would normally mingle, and even getting the various beer companies to work together is something that really means a lot him.
All of the funds raised go to the selected charities, which change every year but are always organizations from the local community.
“As a human, you need to look globally, but you also need to look to your neighbour,” Desbaillets said.
This year, GOAL has a GoFundMe campaign that people can donate to if they are unable to attend the event.
If you are able to attend GOAL, look out for soccer pros like Montreal Impact captain Patrice Bernier and forward Dominic Oduro. The event will have food, beer, cocktails, a video game lounge, a kids zone, and more. For more details, visit www.goalmtl.com.