Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Off to Dream Land (with ABC News)

Off to dream land (with ABC NEWS)

Craig and C-White hang out with luggage in front of the check out line at Newark Airport.
James Wang of ABC news traveled with us to the airport and interviewed all our guys for a feature on ABC news with Charles Gibson for their webcast. GO to ABCcom. Craig Holley made a great distinction, saying he was never homeless, that no of his teammates were homeless, they were just lost, homeless was when you give up and don’t want for yourself, we was just lost, and soccer has helped us get found.”

In the interviews our guys overcame their travel fatigue to reluctantly talk about reality, about their past, and about our team. What we will encounter in Cape Town will in no way resemble reality, it will be a week of exchange and spectacle that happens for folks but once in a lifetime. I am giddy with anticipation.



Craig and Scythe were not in the photos of our first national team practice because they weren’t at the practice. To give some background, Craig and Scythe were both taken away from their families because of their fathers' drug addictions. Craig had not seen his mother in 6 years when he was 13 years old. Scythe hadn’t seen his mother in nearly 3 years. Scythe had talked about meeting up with his brother since he found out he was on the national team a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until the plane ride to new york that Craig turned to me, “hey yo lawrence, is alright if I spend the night with my mother?” I gulped. What mother? I wondered what new family history I was about to hear. Craig had not talked to his mother at all, he just said he was going to go find her. I looked at him, trying to gather some clue from his face as to what was going on. Craig had on a hard stare. But unlike the other stare that Craig used to wear so often, the one meant to intimidate, the gangsta stare, this one was different. The face and eyes were deathly still, the eyebrows lowered, the chin tucked—nothing materially different. I can only say that his gaze was not outward, but rather inward. I just looked back and without a moment’s thought, I said, yes Craig, of course. I tried to convey a tone of seriousness, that I understood what he was conveying about the importance of his search, but at the sametime, it was more a reaction, or a decision that came from somewhere lower in my body, not my head. And unlike any decsion I have ever made with my head, I harbored no anxiety or stress about it. C-white told me I was crazy,”Do you know what Brooklyn is like at night? Do you know Craig? Did you really let him go?” Craig spent two nights in New York with his mom and his sister. He said he had been told lies. His mom is very ill, but she was not on her deathbed. He had told me he worried he might find out she had passed, and in that case, he didn't know if he could go to South Africa. We asked Craig that he return around 6 am in the morning the day of our flight. The truth his we prefered he slept with us that night, but his mother got on the phone and insisted to Rob that she would get him up and send him on the way if he could please stay. Craig called me at 5:30 to say he was heading our way. I said, that’s fine, how long will it take. 45 minutes, he responded. You’ve got plenty of time, but go ahead and getting moving so we won’t have to rush and everything will be relaxed. Craig, I added, I am proud of you. I don’t know what right I had to say that. But for all he struggles with still, he has done some amazing things. He returned with the demeanor of an adult,; he seemed to have aged 10 years. He says he’d really like to move back to new york some day soon to live near his mom and his sister. Can you believe it, he said, all these years they’ve been lying to me, saying my mom didn’t want me, was too sick to have me around. Why do people want to do you like that?” He protested rhetorically in a calm, even tone and tranisitioned into the next subject.

Scythe’s reunion was less dramatic. Actually from my perspective it was a sneak attack. In the lobby of the hostel I saw Scythe talking to two older people, who looked, in the context of the hostel, like some older european travelers from hungary or austria that he had befriended. Then two peole came up from the basement. Scythe said, hey, this is my brother and my sister in law. I chatted them up for a while and asked how dinner went with Scythe. They said they were so exctied for him and happy he was doing so well for himself. I didn’t make the connection that the hungarian looking women with crippled knees was Scythe’s mother and that the man with her was her fiancee. Scythe, how come you didn’t introduce me when they where here? I complained to him. I though I did, he said back and smiled blankly. Scythe was a quesiton mark for this trip based on his attitude during the national tournament, but has been an absolute delight and ease to date. Being able to reconnect with his family with such a positive report of how he is doing has had no small part in his demeanor. He is the same Sycthe only relieved of the anger, paranoia, and tension I have to so strongly associated with his character, but which so obviously obfuscate rather than define his true self.

Here is Scythe the morning of our departure helping strangers load up their Van. The first grouped thanked his so geuinely that he hung around and helped other travelers load up their loads. He had time to do it too since he woke up at 6 and was packed and had eaten breakfast by 7, 3 and a half hourse before our shuttle was scheduled to come pick us up.

National Team Practice

First National team practice:

We got together, the Charlotte crowd, Micael Knight from DC, Abusseyf from New York, and Justin, the organizer from Philaedelphia, and went for a jog along the Hudson River at dusk. We played soccer right there on the riverside concrete. Here’s Cyrus in US NationalTeam colors showing his skills.

Day3: Immigration/Visas

Day 3

The South African Embassy issues all our travel visas without question! Last year UK Visas denied all our players visas to participate in the homeless world cup, because, well, they were homeless. The stressful encounter at immigration in Glasgow broke our way thanks to the purview of Gavin White, a customs official who had the courage to disregard his colleges, and put himself on the line to do what he thought was right. Gavin, if you still keep up with our site, know we are eternally grateful. Needless to say, I was overjoyed at the visas and was slapping our players high fives; none of them being on the team last year, they all looked at me as if to say, “who’s this goofball.”

After the south african embassy we took Cyrus’s Liberian travel document to US Immigration on 26 Federal Plaza to get a routine stamp that would allow him to return to the US (his lost green card is on reorder). Three hours after our appointment time they called us up. They took Cyrus’s passport in the back and didn’t return. Finally they only returned to tell us to have a seat for at least and hour, that they would call us. Any mere arrest, not even a conviction, would Trigger such a search, we later learned. In that moment we were just told that something had come up in his background. If you see the preoccupied look on Cyrus’ face in this picture, it’s the residual fright of a helpeless scare only an immigrant can understand, having your documents in someone else’s hand, knowing that you are held to a different standard than others around you, knowing that if they were not to hand back that little blue booklet and wanted to start deportation proceedings, your whole life would be turned upside down.

After spedning from noon until 4:45 in a the immigration waiting room, we watched the immigration official press a 2 month reentry seal down on the that little light blue booklet that he subsequently handed back to Cyrus. Cyrus had quite smoking a week ago in anticipation of the competition. When we got outside he stopped the first passer by, and handed him a quarter for a little white stick.

First Flight

First Flight:

Dave flew here from Panama and Craig had flown once when he was four, but doesn’t actually remember it; so this wan’t their first flight ever (as it was for so many of the 2005 participants, but it was their first flight towards Cape Town. Here you see Dave posing (he should be studying) and Craig studying (he’s actually writing rap lyrics) on the Jet Blue flight from Charlotte to NYC. Dave is a student at West Charlotte High School and has assignments for all his classes to complete during the trip. He also has to give a report about attending the anniversary parade of Nelson Mandela’s release.

Day 2

Day 2:

As players Zenas Fewell (20 years old), Craig Holley (19), and Dave McCregor (16) --pictured with purple background-- packed the Subaru and prepared for departure on Tuesday from Community Works 945 at the Urban Ministry Center in Charlotte, they did so with the good news that C-White had courgeously contacted his father who indeed delivered the papers overnight, causing The Department of State to iissue him his passport.

Day 1

Day 1

Matt secures his passport in DC and Rob and C-White find out that their document quest was not as much of a sure bet as their research had promised them: C-White’s birth certificate could not serve as proof of citizenship because he was born in Korea. The solution, track down C-White’s dad with whom he hadn’t spoken in two years to secure his adoption papers, and have them fedexed overnight to DC.

The high spirits of the previous week had risen up up and away. With C-White’s status doubtful, Matt and the coaches had to make the difficult decision together that Matt would not travel past D.C., but return to Charlotte and resume his job and Corinthian Construction instead of heading on to Cape Town. This was tough news, especially after two Street Soccer players who were slated for spots on the national team, had to forfeit their positions just two weeks earlier. One was stopped by the police after an altercation with an old man,. An old warrant from 8 years earlier that had never turned up during the passport application process showed up on the policeman’s computer screen and landed him in jail. As if this wasn’t hard enough to swallow, another player who had made tremendous personal strides and who went from someone without a chance to make the national team, to a traveling member of it with passport in hand, suffered a costly lapse of judgement. Thieves will often seek out peope in need on the street to try to cash checks they have stolen or forged, and in turn for taking the risk, receive a small percentage of the toatal. Instead of earning some quick spending money for Cape Town, our player watched hi scheme and his whole dream vanish before his very eyes.

road to capetown

The Road to Cape Town.

The road to Cape Town for a couple players like Zenas “Scythe” Fewell and Craig Holley began over a yeat ago.

For others such as Cyrus Wuor, Matt Jules, and C-White the road to Cape Town looked like it might end in Washington or New York. Rob Cann and these three were officially the first three to travel when the left Charlotte Sunday afternoon in Rob’s car. The day prior, spirits were high as the Big Ben World Cup Send Off turned out to be a great success, raising nearly 1,200 dollars the team’s travels.

It was during the Big Ben event that we could start to wrap our minds around just what a fantastic voyage we were about to undertake. Players talked of climbing mountains, of how it was it too expensive to go from South Africa to Egypt to see the Pyramids, and how far away was Mecca?

All in all Saturday was an odd day of transition. Just the Wednesday prior, Street Soccer had won it’s biggest game ever, defeating Team Austin to reach the Semi Finals of the local league championship. This was not only our first ever semifinal but our first ever time qualifying for the playoffs. The game was serious test. Our oppents came out aggressive, committing several fouls early on and sending the coaching staff into a fit. The players understood the coaches message: we will defend you, you just play the game. Play the game we did. After playing man down after a retaliation foul by coach rob, the team entered the second half down 2 to nil. Two goals by Dave Mc Cregor and leadership from Cyrus Wuor made the difference in the second half as Street Soccer kept its composure and took the lead 3-2. Then with seconds remaining Zenas Fewell who had played a great game got caught out of position as he charged a ball prematurely and left an empty net open for the oppents to level the score. The game ended in a tie but a last minute foul and 2 minute penalty meant Street Soccer would have to play a man down until the penalty was over. Before the penalty time was played, the referee told the squads that the extra time would be golden goal (first team to score wins). With just five men to to the opponents’s six, Street Soccer managed a counter attack and goal which they believed secured them victory. However,Team Austin race back and score a goal while Street Soccer celebrated. The referee ruled the game a tie and Street Soccer managed to finish the penal time without conceding a second goal. At the point the team really came together, determined not to lose. Dave’s third goal of the match on a smoothly slotted strike after throwing a fake to the goalie finally secured Street Soccer the Victory.

At times over the past few season you might have watched us lose games and walked away concluding that people are homeless because they are unlucky, no ifs ands or buts, they just can’t buy a break. Last Wednsday, the group found a way to win the instead of ways to lose the very same sort of game that always eluded them.

Could this victory speak to a change of luck for the american team in Cape Town.


We’re a little late posting this photo, but we want to thank the folks at myers park baptist and the hard working tim deane for the great scrimmage they gave out team. What can you say, a great time was had by all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

National Team player lead the way in Charlotte

C Whyte and Craig Holley share headphones as they get pumped up for their semifinal league match. Street Soccer 945 won 5-4 in overtime behind a hat trick from 16 year old Dave McGregor in a fiercely competative match which many fouls and one red card. Craig and C Whyte join Dave, Matt Jules, Cyrus Wuor, and Zenas Fewell on the national team which will travel next week to South Africa for the 2006 Homeless World Cup in Cape Town.

It really happened (photos by Mae Lambing)

A certain magic in the air that I wrote about last year after the Homeless World Cup 2005 in Edinbrugh (read the photo essay at www.homelesssoccer.org by clicking on the first photo) sparkled right before our eyes at the first ever USA Cup in Charlotte, so plain and obvious, so perfectly reasoable in its glory, that experiencing it, one would almost forget that, whatever it was, it was not the most commonplace natural thing one could imagine, but rather entirely preposterously beautiful and abnormal, and most certainly above all else magical.

56 players from across the country, all of whom have been recently or currently are homeless, came to Charlotte for the first ever Homeless USA Cup. Publicity surrounding the event reached well over 40 million impressions nation wide, putting a human face on homelessness and challenging common notions of what homeless people are capable of when given the chance.

One player wrote in chalk on the center city parking lot where the matches were played, "For three days I was not homeless, I was part of the community." Humanizing social activities, in particular soccer, help folks who feel disconnected and isolated in their lives integrate back into society. Clearly the first Homeless USA Cup was a great catalyst for scores of individuals to make big changes in their lives. The social service agencies who have taken on soccer as a program are perfectly positioned to channel their players energy effectively towards achieving their personal goals.

In photographs attached below you will so people who are homeless from ages ranging from 14 to 56. You will see men reunited with their daughters, young men looking up to old men, teammates rallying around one another, volunteers working with not for those they serve, as well as terrific athletes showcasing their skill and determination.

The week began with Street Soccer 945's local league game, followed by a County Commissioner's meeting where a resolution declaring it Homeless Soccer Week in Charlotte was read by Commissioner Jennifer Roberts. When players arrived on thursday they signed in with their team, were assigned an email address, were taught blogging basics, had their idea badge made by our photography teacher and his students, and were send off for dinner with their host churches.

After Thursday players trained at Freedom Park, trained at Freedom Park, scrimmaged on the zoom soccer street soccerpark at Covenanty Presbyterian and attended a Meet the Player Mixer at Covenants as well sponsored by fuel pizza and featuring delicious hommade desserts from the folks at Covenenant. The the live music and games began, culminating in the announcement of the US National Team on Sunday Evening. What was amazing was how much soccer people palyer from the moment they arrived, all through the night in the church gyms, and all day on the sweltering blacktop. For more details about the photos send and email to artworks945@urbanministrycenter.org. Thanks!


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Come celebrate at Big Ben Pub

Big Ben Pub on 801 Providence Rd, just down from the Manor theatre, is having a World Cup Send Off from 10am-8pm for our national team members. 15 percent of sales goes to the the program, so eat up , watch european soccer, and you'll be doing s a faovr, Thanks!bigben%20copy.jpg