Monday, July 31, 2006

NL31: Victory!


Picture: Chukuyewlu Allen and 3-goal scorer, Dave Mendoza, juggle the ball while their teammates wait for their chance. This is how the team celebrated its first win ever-- by coming back to the Center after the game and playing more soccer. I think they like winning!

Story:

Street Soccer 945 of the Urban Ministry Center, represenatives to the Homeless World Cup 2005, defeated their opponent last Wednesday, July 25th, by a score of 6-3. The victory was the first in regulation in 45 tries dating back to September of 2004. In Febuary of 2005 the club (then Art Works Football Club) recorded the first official win when the other team failed to produce the minumum of five players necessary to compete. The club’s record in more than four seasons of local play and one international competition is 2 wins, 43 losses, and zero ties.

The majority of the players on the field and on the sideline could not appreciate the relief that Wednesday’s victory was. In fact, for 8 of the 12 players, the victory moved them to 1-1 overall. For Zenas Fewell, Craig Holly and Chukuyewlu Allen who had eack played through two winnless seasons, victory was sweet. But for Tony Kelley, Ray Isaac, Abdul Wright, and Andrey Wannamaker, the taste of victory was overshadowed by the pervading sense of disbelief. Tony and Ray both attended the very first practice ever held, Abdul joined during the firt season ever, and Andrey during the second season. All four experienced being “skunked” (0-9) at the world cup last year.

The coaches definitely anticipated a victory, but how it came about was true to the club’s nature: predicatably unpredictable.

First of all, old timers Abdul and Andrey, having moved off the street, are rarely around these days, and were a pleasant surprise on Wednesday as the team gathered for the game. It didn’t look like they would see the field much, nor did their fellow veterans, Ray Isaac, having retired to more of mentor and coaching role on the team, and Tony Kelley, recovering from a back injury and an anxiety attack. All that changed right before game-time when the coaches caught a whiff of marijauna as the team loaded on the van. Our team policy is very clear, if you are under the influence of any substance, you don’t play. We therefore scratched three starters from the match who had been dedicated attendees of practcie. The coaches’ forecast of victory now looked to have lost its foundation. In talking with the players, the coaches expressed their incomprehension, why? Why after dedicating so much time would you blow it? The response was, “We wanted to get hyped to play, to get in the zone, to win.” After this reply, we actually had a dialogue about why it might be advantageous or why it might be a problem to get high before a game. If nothing else, we came to an understanding that a rule is a rule, and the players suspended were, to their credit, good supporters of their teammates and accepted their suspension without complaint.

Led by young striker, Dave Mendoza of Panama, the old timers held solid defensive ground. After a much anticipated but frustrating performance in the openning match of the season two weeks ago, Dave found his comfort zone and marked three goals to his credit, leading the team to victory in game in which they never trailed.

When the final whistle blew, Tony Kelley went bonkers, exclaiming in a loud world wrestling federation style voice that Street Soccer was now “champions of the world.” He began hugging the opponents and lifted one coach up in their air. He must have seemed derranged or juvenile or, at best, the antipathy of a gracious winner to our opponents or to the onlookers at the Sports Warehouse. How could they have any idea what a long, largely invisible, journey he had just completed, both on the field and off it?

80 comments:

Ruth Payne said...

Congratulations!!! You deserve it!!! Good luck in the next couple weeks!

Bob Sundin said...

Congratulations to Coach Rob, Coach Lawrence, and the entire Street Soccer 945 team! How sweet it must have been to earn your first victory in regulation.

It is especially impressive that the team overcame the adversity of the last-minute suspensions. Hopefully, the team learned some valuable lessons that will serve them well in the ongoing process of becoming more engaged in improving their lives.

I wish I could have seen Ray Issac’s face right afterwards, his expression must have been priceless after going through so much as a player and now as a mentor/coach.

Crissy said...

hey you guys keep up the good work I am definetly proud of you all you all are so great keep your heads up and stay cool!!!!

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