Farhan Lalji, gave selflessly of his time and even his home when needed in order to make a difference in the lives of countless others.
Deciding to raise his family in New Westminster, designing a life for his family that included supporting the youth of New Westminster and football in the province. Farhan and his wife Mary, on occasion even boarded the young troubled athletes, treating them like family, always putting the team and the players ahead of everything. I remember how hard it was if he had to miss a game due to work commitments. He gave his heart and soul to the team and the City.
When he first came to me to seek my support to begin a program I asked him how many kids would be interested in playing? He advertised the fact he may begin a team and kids interested should come to a meeting. On that first day, so many years ago, hundreds of kids showed up from all different nationalities. We knew at that moment this could be something special. Kids from all nationalities showed up to play, not just that year, but every year. Kids from East Africa, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, mostly immigrant kids and families wanting to play the game and be part of the great equalizer, sports. It did not matter what colour they were, what racial slurs they faced off the field, day in and day out, what matters was their dedication to play and Farhan’s ability to get the best he could from everyone. I could see them running up and down the field and it brought me back to my days and I was hooked! Working and supporting the program and Farhan for all these years has been a blessing.
I remember the team going to play in Vancouver at Vancouver college campus stadium in 2009, where the stands were full and the spotlight was the brightest that year. We were undefeated Hyacks playing the biggest game of the year. The game where our reputation was on the line. Were the Hyacks really that good? Has the program really turned around and can they contend for the High school championship? Really? New West Football? On paper, during the season, we were the better team for sure.
I remember watching with other Hyacks parents and alumni watch as the team struggled under the intense pressure. We must have had a record turnovers in that game and ultimately lost. The boys’ heads dropped and they all left that field feeling that they didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations. We were just the blue collar town of New West that just had its butts handed to us. They looked like they lost all confidence in themselves and had no hope.
But Farhan did not lose faith. He continued to support the boys. He never lost faith in the kids. He encouraged them, on the field and in the classroom to do well. He told them time and time again that you are better than this. That when life gets you down or throws you a curve ball its how you respond. How do you respond to that adversity and if you can overcome it? That is what builds character that will take you a long way in life.
Well everyone knows what happened a few short years later when they won it all . The school’s first BC high school football championship.
Plus over 50 students going on to play or attend college. In 2014, we were the only high school in Canada that sent two seniors on full ride scholarships to NCAA division one schools.
I am so proud to be your friend and to have been asked 20 years ago to help get the program re-started. You did all the heavy lifting we all just came along for the ride. You have sacrificed a lot. But you’ve given so many young men and families HOPE that you can achieve greatness even when it appears all odds are stacked against you.
Your legacy will live forever at New West and your spirit and core values you instilled will be entrenched in the Hyacks football culture for years to come. That kind of love and passion doesn’t just drift away. You have now built it into the culture of the program and I know the next person who will have the honour of taking over the program you brought back from the ashes will do his or her best to keep the fire alive.
Have a look at Farhan’s website at farhanlalji.com