Friday, June 30, 2006

Stephanie Wins Dual Awards

Stephanie Johnson, a Street Soccer Alumn who made the trip to Scotland last summer as one of only two females on the team won two awards last week.

The first was the Charlotte Area Fund's Self-Sufficiency Award recognizing Stephanie's economic achievement over last year, according to the award, earning enough wages to move her out of poverty. Stephanie said she was still pretty darn poor, but was grateful for and proud of the award.

Second, Stephanie was chosen along with a handful of players from around the world to participate in the United Nations Works online report on the Homeless World Cup. Below are listed the answers Stephanie provided to the United Nations Works. Please take the time to read them, they are extremely insightful and thoughtful remarks . . .

1.) Tell us your story. How long were you or have you been
homeless, how did this happen? How did this make you feel? How did
you picture your future to be?

Stephanie was homeless for 12 months during 2004-2005.

"I became homeless while relocating to Charlotte. I was absolutely fed up with the same struggle everyday in Maryland. I moved to Charlotte looking for something better. I really felt it was what God or the spirit or the higher being wanted me to do. I didn't think I'd end up on the streets, but I did."

2.) How did you hear about the Homeless World Cup? Had you ever
played football or other sports before? What made you decide to

"I learned about the homeless world cup through Art Works Football Club [now Street Soccer 945] at the soup kitchen [Urban Ministry Center]."

"I had played volleyball, softball, american football, and basketball growing up in the neighborhood and in high school. I played on the field hockey and lacrosse team in high school until I got kicked off the team for fighting along with half of the other players."

"I decided to play to get physical exercise and to help me with my mental peace. I was about to lose myself living on the street. I mean, can you understand? I was losing MYSELF. I was starting to get used to being on the street. I learned I could eat and get clothes, and find places to crash without paying rent. Then I heard about this soccer thing. The team offered me a group of people to bond with. I felt more secure, protected by my teammates. Your mind gets numb when you are just thinking about surviving, but the team made me socialize and I felt my old life coming back to me."

3.) What was your Homeless World Cup experience? How did you feel
when you learned you would be going to the Homeless World Cup? How
did you feel playing at the tournament? How did you feel after the

"I was extremely excited to know I was going and had the chance to represent Art Works Footbal Club. Actually representing the United States made me feel nervous. I remember marching down the streets and that's when it really hit me. I didn't feel like I was good enough to march for our country and play for our country. But then I learned it wasn't about that. It was about showing our spirit, showing that we were human beings. It was a wonderful time because there were no colors, no races, just stories about ways of being homeless, and ways of overcoming. I realized I was in the richest country in the world and i was worse off than most of the people there, for example the dutch and the scottish all offered places to stay year round, but over here we get all the clothes and food we need but no shelter."

"Stepping on the field made me feel important. I felt like I belonged. Having the crowd around me made me feel like I was in the right place. It gave me an ego boost and made me feel like I was suppose to be alive, living my life."

"I had to adjust to the United States again, because over there with all that good spirit where nothing was superficial I felt great, but over here it was a sudden shock becuase it was back to appearance and supeficiality. Also, when i came back I noticed all the summer clothes and styles that people were wearing here. Everything back home was bright like a flower, all the people, because it was summer, not the realaxing cool weather of scotland. It's hard for me to say, I felt like I was in the world over there, but coming back, people were separate again and all about me me me."

4.) How has the Homeless World Cup changed your life? Have you got a
job, found a house and/or sought education or drug/alcohol
rehabilitation? How has your attitude changed? How have your goals

"The Homeless World Cup introduced me to diversity. Now I feel connected to the rest of the world and I love to see people from other countries. I just met someone from Ireland last week. We are going to meet up for a meal tomorrow night."

"I now hold down three jobs; food and beverage manager at Bobcat Arena, Concessions at the Convention Center, and i work for Delectables by Holly, a catering company. I now have my own apartment as of three and a half months ago. I live alone and pay my own rent."

"I have more patience for people and less anger. I also have lots of new ideas about how to contribute to society after all this. My goals really haven't changed. I still really want to be a substitue teacher again, and I want to eventually do something for the homeless females here in Charlotte. When I was little I wanted to be a nun or to join the peace corp. I feel the same way now about being a teacher as I did about the peace corp then. I still might think about the peace corp though!"

Sunday, June 25, 2006

National Recruiting

Here you see Brad Perguson of Richmond, VA with Rob and Lawrence Cann during a recruiting trip for participants in the Homeless World Cup USA 2006 in Charlotte, NC. We met Brad on a Friday at a church which was serving lunch. Like us, Brad was waiting for his number to be called so he could eat. He thought he must have been dreaming when we made our announcement about the street soccer tournment. Brad has convinced five of his friends particpating in Richmond's winter shelter progam called CARITAS ( to train with him. They are convening their own practices and preparing for the competition this August in Charlotte. Also, the Daily Planet ( looks to be bring some of there clients from Richmond. Look for more news here about players from Costa Mesa, CA, New York, Austin, TX, Philadelphia, Denver, CO and more.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Before i start the post that will turn out to be about one of our longest participating members, statyk, i want you to check out this photo of our team and garden program director don boekelheide putting on our USA jersey's before our world cup match today. never mind the result, we were proud to support our team. on saturday during the italy game, beasely scored and it took us 5 minutes to realize the goal was called back because we were celebrating so hard . . . (ps please ignore the mirror effect the cpu camera put on our jerseys)

Practice this tuesday was not exactly what it was the previous tuesday. the previous tuesday we went out and found a pick up game with a bunch of talented haitians. for one of our new players, sean, this really openned his eyes to the fact that soccer is the world's games, not just played by suburbans whites as he had previously gathered. the high paced game last tuesday in the rain, the energy, the jibe and the jabber, left sean, pancho, and others gasping for breath and grasping for words that might light up as brightly as their eyes did with excitement. "that was fun," was the understated conclusion our guys could manage to verbalize.

this tuesday we held off practice in order to watch england fail to hold off sweden in the final moments of their final first round game in the world cup, a 2-2 draw. after the game we took off to play. we were excited to play with cyrus, a liberain, who says he played for the u-15 national team in liberia before coming to the states. we looked for a pick up game at queens college, but found only a pair of players, excellent ones, looking for a game. Here is where we run into the problem of being and inclusive program. Cyrus, an excellent player, myself, rob, and Dave (the 16 year panamanian), plus our two new acquaintances were of a quite different level than the majority of our other participants. Cyrus was disineterested in frustrated. Dave was phenomenal, rejoicing in every goal he scored, and our two guest played nice, taking it easy on amanda (19 years old, just quit school and now working at a deli) when she wiffed the ball a few times, and then turning it up a notch to take me on down the wing even if their service was inevitably muffed by andrey who has developed great ball handling skills, but still can resist toe-poking his shots.

This is the game we always play though, lowering expectations of the team in order to include everyone, yet seeking to find ways to challenge our top players. Likewise on the life skills front we find that higher functioning folks fail to challenge themselves because they are so much better off than others around them. For people who have grown up on or around the streets, success is too narrowly defined if defined at all. of course i have my definition of success for each player, but they only own their own definition, so that is the important one to listen to and encourage.

towards the end of practice one of the old timers, tony kelley showed up. he had taken three buses and looked for us at two locals, but made it to practice after getting off of his job at Lava bar and grill where he is the head host and makes 40 to 50 bucks in tips per night. tony is a great example of what i was speaking of earlier. i can't tell you how many times we have decided to kick tony off the team, but gave him one more chance. tony's been with us since the very first day. that means almost two years of soccer. he has just barely cleared our minumum expections on every occasion since day one, and slowly but surely, this misanthropic, gothic, self styled super-hero called "statyk" has become a committed regular participant, a responsible father, and no longer homeless. all along i have told tony's critics that he is on his own trajectory, however gradual and glacierlike that might be, only half believing my own words. a turning point i think was last year when he turned himself in for being behind in child support. a father with no father or mother of his own, tony at that point still carried around a wwf wrestling belt that he earned as the champion of his mock pro-wrestling league he formed with his friends. Actually he still carries that around. effectively tony was a kid in man's body, and with no walls to hide behind, no bed to lay down in and collect his thoughts, tony has started to grow into that body, and his maturity is what distinguished him from the tony of before.

i realized a lot had changed when tony hopped the fence and came strutting towards our rag tag game at 8pm. I said hop in tony, and he said, no way, not till you give me some shorts, i'm not playing in these, pointing to his black cargo pants. they're in the van, i replied, it's unlocked. Tony came out in tight shorts, fairly bursting out of his practice jersey. the new players laughed, and tony laughed at himself a little and said with a smile, i don't care, i'm ready to play. I had to roll my eyes and chuckle to myself. for the first year i argued weekly with tony about changing out of his all black uniform, telling him it was one thing to try to play in black denim, but another thing to go on wearing the pants after sweating in them. Somewhere along the line tony took ownership of the idea of wearing a practice uniform and shedding the black gothic attire for a bright red and blue street soccer 945 practice uniform. as i watched tony use his instep to finish a goal on tuesday, i thought to myself, i kind of missed the days when he yelled "haya!" marshal arts style everytime he swung at the ball, testing every ounce of patience in our players with each outburst, but certain things, i concluded are always fonder in memory than they every were in experience.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

World Cup Begins

The World Cup Begins. In this photo, Sean Horne, a new speedy attacker and native of Charlotte, gives a presentation on Germany and Costa Rica as the openning match got underway last friday. Other Street Soccer players are learning basic internet skills as well as practicing public speaking by researching the certain countries and making presentations before we show certain matces.

Savor de Panama

Yolanda Mendoza brought her two brothers, Junior and David, over to an Art Works 945 workshop in mail art. The Mendozas were all born in Panama, and just how they came over, Yolanda, so far, has been keen to obfuscate. What is for certain is how delightful the threesome is. Dave, 16, at the right, and Junior,13, at left with shoes, brightened when they heard we were practicing soccer. Dave scored five goals in last week's scrimmage and he and Junior, gave lessons on goals celebrations to our Street Soccer regulars.