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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!