Tuesday, December 25, 2007

End of Year Banquet and Christmas Party

Zenas Fewell claimed the Outstanding Achievment Award for his successful exploits since particiapting in the 2006 Capetown World Cup. Zenas has maintained his apartment for 18 months and recentely got back into classes at the community college. Despite a hearing disability and a mental health disability, Zenas has escaped homelessness. He addressed head on all his disablilties and additionally finished anger management courses. Although he does not train with the team regularly anymore, he checks in from time to time and is an inspiration to others.

The Spirit Award went to new team member Tim Cummings (pictured above) who has been all about supporting his teammates, helping them find jobs, encouraging them in their battles against drugs, and being a general force of good energy. Tim is an invaluable resource for his teammates in their struggles because he has been there himself. With over a year of sobriety, Tim says he has never felt better. Outside of Street Soccer Tim plays goalie in the Latino league where he won an award for outstanding goalkeeping. We are greatful for his efforts on and off the field.

The Fair Play Award went to US Copenhagen World Cup captain Daniel Martinez, whose calm demeanor, excellent hustle and talent earned him praise from coaches of all nations. Most importantly he demands the respect of his teammates. When he, Elmer, and Jorge decided to come to Charlotte, they changed their address and their attitude. Daniel was catalyst for their change and subsequent success.

The Hustle Award went to Craig Holley who has returned to Charlotte and street soccer with more purpose and drive than ever. Craig’s determination is worthy of singling out as an example for all of the players, especially since Craig had never played soccer before training with Street Soccer 945.

While we would have liked to give an award to all players, these were some areas that we felt were important to emphasize for our program. Congrats to everyone. We are thankful for the opportunities afforded us in 2007 and proud of how all of us seized these opportunities.

Stars Shine

Street Soccer Stars ended a two game losing streak to move into second place in the league standings on Tuesday night, winning 5-3. The competition was not as stiff as previous weeks and Jorge’s return in the back was welcomed. The story of the match was Dwayne’s goal (Dwayne is pictured above), the 4th that put us in the lead for good after the half. Why is it the story? Because it extended Dwayne’s streak of goals. He has now scored in every match he has played in for Street Soccer 945 and the Street Soccer Stars. That is 6 games straight and a total of 9 goals. The other nice moment was when 24 year-old volunteer Chris scored our team’s fifth goal with just under 5 minutes to play. The two-goal lead took the pressure of the defense a bit. From a game that saw us miss many chances, we will build positively off the good hustle and improved team play. In another kudos to big Dwayne, known affectionately as D-bone to his teammates, we are happy to congratulate him on passing a drug test and receiving out patient recommendation from the McCleod Center. Dwayne is 6 weeks into his sobriety and has maintained it since leaving a 28 day program. The Stars are back in action after the holiday.

Hectic Day, Hectic Game

J. lost his job when he made the mistake of cashing a false check. Someone approached him with the idea and Jesse went along with it for a number of sympathetic reasons, none that justified what he did of course. The amount was less than 500 dollars so it didn’t register as a felony. Still, it has kept him from getting the jobs he wants. J. is a trained cook, but that charge keeps popping up. Last time they told me, said Jesse, that it showed a lack of trustworthiness. After many years working at the soup kitchen you start to develop a gut instinct about people’s trustworthiness. Everyone is in need, so you factor that in, and sometimes for the sake of what might come of it, you trust people even though your gut tells you not too. Sometimes you get burned on the risk, but the rewards when someone responds to trust are invaluable. Jesse, however, is the type of guy you let hold your wallet; you get that feeling from him right off. So you think, this guys’ greatest asset is his loyalty and trustworthiness, but come to find out that is what’s keeping him where he is right now.

J. jumps to the forefront because we had to take him to the hospital after the game on Wednesday night. His asthma flared up. On the van ride to the hospital we made him laugh which made it even harder for him to breath. J. had started the game at midfield for Street Soccer 945. He is a stolid man, built like a cannonball. He seemed to be shot out from cannon early on as he surprised the opponent, stole the ball, and passed to Junior for our team’s first shot on goal. On a similar play four minutes later he stole the ball again and dished to Tony who powered the ball at the keeper such that the keeper couldn’t handle it and bobbled it over the line for our first goal. The referee however was in a bad position and didn’t call it a goal. Even though all the players had stopped to return the ball to midfield for a kickoff, the referee waved his arms to signal no goal and the play resumed awkwardly. That was J.’s last effort of the first half. He trotted off the field calling for his inhaler. Sweat beaded so heavily on his shaved head that it splashed when his teammates patted him on his head to congratulate him on his effort. While J. regained his breath, goalie Tim Cummings was throwing himself around like he was 18 all over again. Tim made around 20 saves in the first half before finally letting a header bounce past him. The score finished 1-0 at the half.

With J. out, first time player and 17 year old Jones played lots of minutes. Our senior players struggled. Craig had a bad day at work and barely made it to the van after getting off work. Tony came trotting down Tryon Street to catch us just before we got on the on ramp to the highway. Pop hadn’t slept after working night shift. Junior said he had a stomach-ache. Nassir who made his debut last week didn’t even try to come after he was stabbed in the leg by a man who blamed Nassir for his lost bags. Nassir is fine, only a handful of stiches. A calm, non-violent man, Nassir has his taxicab liscense, but is awaiting his greencard replacement to arrive. He managed to convince a cab owner to let him work as a driver. That was until he got stabbed in his right leg. “I was just about crying,’ said Nassir, ‘not from the pain in my leg, but because it was my right leg and he would not let me drive anymore.’

Other new faces included Lamont Harrel and John Oliver. In the end, we lacked cohesion. Despite good hustle we gave up a bevy of goals during a 5 minute period and found ourselves down 5-0 with a minute to go in the game. We gave up one more right at the end.

The most important result was hearing from J. at 1am, telling us he was fine. He said a lot of people asked questions about his uniform in the emergency room. He also said the doctor said he was getting better not worse. Jessie responded well to the treatment and was blowing with above average breath strength of 700 after just one treatment. In the past it has taken him 2 treatments to reach that level. Jess also noticed that even during the asthma attack he was blowing at a level that was above what used to be his average. The doctor told him this was surely a result of laying off cigarettes (he hasn’t smoked since joining the team) and running at games and at practice. Get back out there was the main message the doctor had for J.

The whole team will do that the week following Christmas. Happy Holiday from Street Soccer 945.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

945 rallies!

Pictured: William, 44, Amadeus, 19, Junior, 16, Tony Kelly celebrating (see article)

13 players crowded the bench to fill only six spots on the field at the Charlotte Sports Connection on Wednesday night.

First timers Jesse and Nassir had not played competative soccer since they were in high school. For Jesse that was 23 years ago. For Nassir it was 20. They would have to shake off a combined 53 years of rustiness quickly if they were going to make an impact on the match. William, 44, alone had 44 years of soccer inaction to contribute to the match. William was galvanized after his first practice two weeks ago and had been anticipating this his second game all week. William is a calm man with stern mien which belies a warm, gregarious personality. While 16 year old Junior McGregor, or 19 year old Amadeus don’t look like what we typically think of when we think “homeless,” William might come closer in appearance to one’s expectations. Originally from South Carolina, William has worked hard all his life. He is a private man, humble and friendly. He is the type you meet and think, wow, there is a story there. I hope I earn his trust enough to hear it.

In contrast to the previous night with the Street Soccer Starts, Wednesday’s squad arrived early, warmed up, and had time to meet as a team to talk pre-game strategy. Coaches Cann, neither in uniform, combined brains to come up with a successful new strategy. The major move was to play with a sweeper instead of two backs. Craig Holley’s improved skills combined with his speeed and hustle and natural defensive instinct inspired the thought. We explained Craig his role just minutes before the game, but it proved to be a natural fit and Craig was a standout all match, showcasing his athleticism and ability to read the play.

In front of Craig we played Two midfielders, Tony Kelly and Junior McGregor. Junior we hoped could be the link in the middle of the field to our forward pair, Pop and Dwayne. Tim who missed Tuesday because of his recovery house meeting was in the net. The first goal we gave up would prove costly. Excellent defenisve organization had kept the score level until Tim muffed a low shot to the near post. It was keeper error that Tim would later atone for. Craig’s only mistake of the game proved costly as well. He made a great dribble move in the middle of the field. When he found no teammtates readily available he made poor pass which resulted in a breakaway. 2-0. Dwayne who showed great leadership and hustle as he showed signs of improved fitness, pulled a goal back, taking a pass from Junior, fooling a defender and suprising the goalie with low powerful blast. Despite excellence defenisve communication and competant role playing of our substitutions, we tired towards the end of the half, yeilding two more goals. 4-1 was the score at the half.

Two things were clear. Craig had found his natural position and we were playing too much defense as a team. At half time we made it clear that we need to leave Craig back to defend and to attack with all four of the remaining players. That way we would keep the ball in the offensive end. Likewise we needed to defend with four, but we must leave one of the forwards up to keep us dangerous. To their credit, the team listened and responded. We kept the ball in the attack and gave up no goals in the second half. Dwayne and Tony each added to our tally to bring us within one goal. Pop came tantalizinly close and Junior missed several chances. Just as we seemed about to score, our opponents turned a quick counter attack. William had come on and found himself all alone facing two attackers and a lofted ball coming his way. William bravely stepped up to the ball which his chest and then the opponents hand. What looked like a clear break and perhaps goal ended up as a free kick for the good guys.

The crowd began cheering as we kept pressing for a tying goal. Finally Tony Kelly made some magic happen. He was called for a foul and turned to run back up the field on defense. The other team made a quick restart, one defender touching the ball to over to the other. Tony sensed this and made a lighning about face turn. Relaxing with their heads down, believing Tony was retreating, the other team was slow to move to the ball. Tony got there first, and with one touch to his left foot he fired a second touch shot past the keepr who was also asleep on the play. Before we all realized what happened, the score was level. Perhaps a bigger distraction than the euphoria of the tie score was Tony’s bizarre celebration. He jumped into a squat and did a self invented dance that was a strange as it was hilarious. He deserved the celebration. The score stayed levelafter that despite our push for a winning goal.

Debbie, a yoga instructor who volunteers at the center, was there watching our game while she waited for her son’s team to play. Her son is a hig school senior who organized a drive amongst his fellow players to supply our team with outdoor cleats last year. Debbie said she was watching the game and got very excited cheering for our comback. Then she thought Tony looked familiar. But where do I know him from. They she said, I put it together. I looked on the sideline and there you were, Lawrence and Rob, and I said, oh, it’s the homeless team. I elbowed my hustband and said, It’s the homeless team! Wow, they are really good.

Many congrats to the 13 players, 12 of whom got in the game, for their well deserved tie, and inspiring performance.

Street Soccer Stars Struggle after 2-0 start

Brothers Dave and Michael have had a tumultous week. The family had seemed the most stable they had ever been. Dave upon turning 18 had signed on to work with Michael. Each of them were logging a minumum of 40 hours a week. Their sister Yolanda too found a job, plus their mother still had a part time job on the weekends. The burden of a large family had suddenly tranformed into an assest. Additionally Dave continued to train with the Charlotte United U-18 club. After showing off his speed and skills for the lower level team, Dave was given the chance to train with the premier squad. Hesitant, and even fearful of failure, Dave agreed to practice with the premeir team only when Street Soccer Coach Rob offered to practicce with him. Rob put on his cleats and trained with the team. The rest was history. Dave, according the coach, improves by leaps and bounds each time he comes out. He was too good of talent to pass up on, the coach continued. Dave has been invited to play in the club’s January tournament in Raleigh.

But all that was last week. When one of the two bread factories that Dave and Michael clean at night was shut down due to rennovations, the workforce was downsized by four. Dave the most recent hire was cut first. Michael was cut fourth. They are scheduled to return to work in Febuary, but for the moment they are jobless all over again.

On top of that news, there was death in the family back in Panama and Dave and Michael’s mother is putting her income towards a ticket to Panama for the funeral. In short, the family is staring homelessness in the face once again. Still, Dave and Mike are confident they will find work within the week ahead.

So the above was the backdrop for the McGregor’s when we drove up in the van to pick them up for Tuesday’s game. Yolanda was at work and their mother was heading to Panama, so they were alone with Yolanda's son, Xavier. We drove around the neighborhood to find their brother Junior to watch the baby as the green digits on dashboard counted closer and closer to game time.

We arrived in time, but without much time to get settled and talk about the match ahead. Our opponents were the top team in the league (our league is the premier adult division in Charlotte) and featured a MLS player who is training to make it back and others who have played for the local professional team, the Charlotte Eagles.

Although we showed talent, speed, and proved to be dangerous offensively. We lacked concentration, poise, and desire. Dave played an excellent game, but failed to find a tight mark in the back just 3 minutes into the game. We found ourselves down one-nil. Elmer then missed a tap in that would have tied it up five minutes later. That was the last chance we would have of getting back into the game. We consistently lost our marks and conceded easy goals. While we were dangerous when we attacked, we were unprecise. As the total against us mountained we found a few minutes of intensiy that saw us score three unanswered goals. The final tally was 11-4 or there abouts. Our oppents get all the credit. They even scored two full field shots from the goalkeeper who read our keepr being of his line. He struck two perfect knuckle balls over the head of goals and just beneath the cross bar on two shots, one in each half. You can’t even say our goalies were that far out of position. It was that kind of day.

On the postive side, three playeres stood out. Craig Holley, Dwayne Gourzong, and Pop Miller. These three are rubber players that contribute to bothe the Street Soccer Stars and the 945 squad. Dwayne scored once again. He has now scored in every match he has played for Street Soccer. Craig’s hustle was unmatched. He proved a tough defender for even the most talented of our opponents to get around. Pop as well showed a new agressiveness and more confidence on the ball, although his playing time was limited with this squad.

The message after the game was that we joined this league to challenge ourselves, and that we were facing this challenge right now. Next week we will look forward to playing with more intenstiy. We have an opportunity with this team to change people’s minds. Win or lose, if we play with intensity and fair play, we can achive that in every match.

Record for the season is now 2-2.

Pop Miller is pictured above.

Sundance FIlm Festival!!

“Kicking it” at Sundance

Susan Koch’s film about the Homeless World Cup will premeir at the Sundance Film Festival this January. Street Soccer 945’s Craig Holley is the featured player from the US. The film follows seven players from six countries who competed in the 2006 Homeless World Cup in Capetown, South Africa.

http://www.sundance.org/festival/ is the link to sundance.

http://www.homelessworldcup.org/zine/news/homeless-world-cup-documentary-to-premiere-at-sundance is the link to an brief article about the film and the "film-anthropy" group headed by Ted Leonsis which is backing it.

An update on Craig: After the World Cup Craig went to live with his mother and sister in New York. He hadn't seen them since he was 16. The reunion was good on some levels, but ultimately Craig and his sister decided to move out. After spending a couple months in Pennsylvania with his sister, Craig came back to Charlotte where he has excelled for Street Soccer 945. He works at Mert's Heart and Sole restaurant in Uptown and is officially off the street, renting an apartment with a coworker from Mert's. Craig is studying to finish his high school equivalency and has already to talked to the fire department about entering fireman training when he completes receives his equivalency.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Team, New Beginning

First, check out this photo of street soccer action. Would you guess the game going on here was taking place at a soup kitchen for the homeless. If not, why?

Well, that question aside, we turn our focus to the latest team developments. We are proud to announce that Street Soccer has expanded its progamming (we will announce this again in January). On Wednesday night, Street Soccer began its new two-team system. One team for an interim basis we will call the Street Soccer Stars. This team involves highly skilled players who in many cases have been with the program for while and have gotten off the street, but for whom playing soccer is a sustaining force in their life. Street Soccer 945's traditional team now focuses specifically on players who are developing their soccer skills. This developmental team gives more people the chance to get in the game, and that is what Street Soccer is all about, giving people the chance to compete, to feel alive, to test themsleves, to fail, to practice, to succeed, and giving it to people who otherwise feel locked out of life becuase they are homeless.

Our pep talk before wendnesday's game was about realism. Guys, the coaches emphasized, tonight is about gaining experience and building up team skills. We want to focus on staying in our positions and playing goal-side defence. We want to win tonight, but our objective is to get better. Things will go wrong, we will be challenged, and we might even get far behind on the scoreboard. That is okay because tonight our main objective is to learn. What we can control no matter what is our spirit and our hustle. Let's go out there and show everyone our hustle, our spirit, and our class."

Our team featured John Nze, a fifty something Nigerian who probably weighs two or three pounds over a hundred. Amadeus, a 21 year old Harry potter look-a-like from New York whose story we are trying to learn piece by piece, Capone, 5 foot even on a good day, a 38 year old man who is completely new to soccer, Pop Miller and Tony Kelley, two folks who are seeking to improve their skills but added some experience to our roster, Justin who is 22 from Charlotte, 6 foot 3 and wears size 16 boots, Rodney a 19 year old from Shelby who wrestled in high school and is new to soccer, and a new recruit, Tim, who actually has "star" team skillls. Tim is in recovery and despite what misconceptions his heavy country accent conjures, is an eccelent soccer player who played some in college and who used to be the only "white guy" in the Latino leagues here in Charlotte.

Our team passed the ball and kept their positons throughout the game. Slowly but surely after a couple early scares, we realized we were having the better of the play. The pressure was on because before the game we noticed one of our opponents was Rob, the manager at Brixx Pizza who had first furnished our uniforms and post game meals. Just before half we squeezed in a goal and then we found ourselves up by two when Tony Kelley, who took on a leadership role in the absence of the more skilled players, powered in a low left footed free kick past the goalie. Watching Tony all night was the most gratifying period of Rob's and my coaching exprience at Street Soccer. Tony who we have banned from the team again and again, and who always eventually does what we ask and invariably shows up to every practice, made consistent good passes, played responsible defence, showed dynamic footskills,and really was the difference in the game. By coincidence this week, the ex-girlfriend of Tony's adopted father walked into my office on Tuesday. We talked for an hour about Tony, how special he his, and how he has struggled. Tony spoke with her by telephone on Wednesday and I wondered if that connection had anything to do with his inspired performance. As she and I concluded, "Tony needs a lot of love."

The finals score was a 3-1 Street Soccer victory. After the game we took John to work at an organization called Samaritan's Purse. This group sends shoe boxes full of Christmas goodies to impoverished communities in Africa, among them, communties in John's native Nigeria. With the rest of the team we went back to the Center, showered and dropped folks off at the winter shelter, one person at a half way house, one at transit, and another at a "friend's."

Today we have practice on the court pictured above at 1pm.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hunger Week at Belmont Abbey College supports Street Soccer for the 2nd Year in a Row.

Belmont Abbey College hosted their annual Hunger Week at the College to raise awareness and funds to support the homeless and impoverished in the Charlotte area last week. Part of Hunger Week was a 5k run and 1 mile walk on Saturday. The student commitee that organized the race chose Street Soccer 945 again this year as the beneficiary of the funraiser. Participants, mostly students, paid an entry fee and raced with the motto in mind "will run for food." Entry fees and sponsorships from local businesses totaled $2600 that was donated directly to Street Soccer 945. Incredible; thank you Belmont Abbey! We are pictured here receiving our check with the "Will Run for Food" commitee.

Racers from Street Soccer 945 included Rodney, John, Sherwood, Diane, Ray, Toney, me, Rob Cann, and our mascot for the day, my dog Ulrich. We met at the UMC at 7am when it was still dark out and the weather still pretty chilly but holding true to their word our runners showed up to represent the team. In particular Rodney Giles, 18 years old, who has been with the team for just the last month, was a standout. Rodney, running in his first race, walked 3 miles from the emergency winter shelter just to get to the center on Saturday so he could then run in the 5k. Rodney is pictured here with his number just before the race began. He finished just behind the coach, but far ahead of his other teammates. My advice to the runners was to start out with a slow jog and to settle into a steady pace. Rodney decided he was going to go at the run a little differently. He started with a sprint, jumping out in front of everyone only to burn out and start walking a quarter mile into the race, a classic long distance run mistake. Ulrich and I came zig-zaging up and got in Rodney's ear as we passed by him only to see a streak of blue pass by us a minute later as he sprinted out a hundred yards ahead. Again he could not sustain his pace. This was our pattern for the race. It mimicked the flow of Rodney's life right now. He is up at 4:30 am at the winter shelter to go four miles to Einstein Bagel for his shift which is seven hours long. With nowhere to rest, he finds any place he can to re-energize before he starts his night job valet parking. When his job finishes, he has a 4 mile walk back to the winter shelter for another small rest. Run, walk, run, walk, run walk. Starting and stopping and fighting fatigue is what Rodney has to do until he can gather enough money to find his own place to live. With his good spirits and calm demeanor and the drive he showed in the race on Saturday, success, at least on a small, school looks eminent for this young man.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Justin Strikes a Double in His Second Match

Players can be seen training here on the new street soccer pitch. We have held practice in the form of scrimmages on this field every friday. The players have caught the buzz and two things have happened: team membership is up, and the same new members are getting better faster as they are seeing more of the ball on the small field.

Justin, a six foot three inch beanpole with size 13 sneakers is one of the new players that has made tremendouse strides in a short amount of time in terms of his technical ability. The volume of his enthusiasm is always to the max, and if it you didn't stop to think about how incredible it is that he is this engaged and excited about our team, you would probably call his enthusiasm annoying. Before we get back to Justin, tonight's self proclaimed MVP--yes he said it, "Wow, I feel good, you know what, I guess I had to be the MVP tonight, Hey coach, I was the MVP"--let me contrast him to three other new players: John, Richard, and Dwayne.

John contrasts Justin in age. John is a fifty year old, bald nigerian, more than twice Justin's age. John is slightly built, but he shares Justin's exhuberance. Today he turned in 4 sheets of potential line-ups given different game scenarios to Rob and during tonight's game Rob had to remind him to step off the field and walk back from in front of his own team's bench. John was cheering so hard he had wandered over into the other team's subsitute area and onto the field during play. He was so excited when he got on the field that he rushed a throw in and tossed it in as a chest pass. John, a nigerian, who has 'loved soccer his entire life' in his own words, is not the person you'd think would make that mistake.

Richard contrasts Justin is size. He is Justin's age, but Richard who claims to have grown up in Italy and could easily look Italian, is a scrawny 5'5' 24 year old who has been completely dedicated since he showed up on the scene last week. Richard would have played tonight but the mission where he has just found lodging wouldn't allow him to be out so late. We look forward to working with them to get around this in the future.

And where Justin is a beanpole, Dwayne is a tree trunk. Weighing in at 240 pounds, Dwayne is central midfielder with good technique and vision for plays and combinations. He uses his body well and has a solid soccer background, growing up playing in West Palm Beach Florida. Dwayne came to the Urban Ministry Center because in his own words, "I had no where else to turn." Dwayne set his personal goals with us last week ans has already gotten started to work on them. In fact , we will miss him for about a month as he has signed up for a 28 treatment program. Dwayne's one year goal is to get everything he lost back, including his children and bring them to Charlotte to live with him in his new apartment and to watch him play a game before he travels with the national team to the World Cup. He is very capable of achieving that.

So to get back to the game and Justin's heroics. Justin took a nice pass from Dave in the center fo the field, settled into the space above the 18 yard box with his first touch and then whacked the ball whizzing into the side netting for his first goal and the teams fourth in the first half. In the second half we mounted a large lead and relaxed. Everyone tried to get in on the scoring, leaving us exposed in the back. The next thing we knew our 6 to 2 lead had slipped to six to four. Justin then struck again, this time striking the ball with the opposite foot but with the same level of concentration. It was another zooming low speed ball that goalie had no chance to save. Then Elmer, always the competor added anothe goal to make it 8-4, a goal that seemed to be mere icing on the cake. We gave up another goal that on a defensive miscue and then a keeper error followed by defensive give a way in the final 4 minutes made it an 8-7 match. Unthinkably, we our opponents won a headball and bea our last defender with 10 seconds on the clock only for our keeper to make a save in a one on one situation to save us the victory.

All in all we learned a lot. As competition increases for spots, we will be srtiving to push our players more and more to show us what they can do. Our record is now 3-2 on the season.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Season

Street Soccer played its first two games on back to back nights. We almost didn't make this evening's game when our van got a flat tire just one mile after leaving the UMC. The tire had a big gash in it and we inflated it just enough to go back to the center by using a "flat fixer" can we bought at a gas station around the corner. Back at the center, we piled into the coaches two cars and made it to the game 2 mintutes before kickoff. Good thing we left early and got dressed out ahead of time.

In the new season four new team members have stepped up to make contributions. The likes of John Oliver and Patrick Allen, though new to the games, have come in and played their part. John from Nigeria despite being over fifty years old left his feet for two slide tackles in this evening's game. Our experienced player like Jorge, Pop, Dave, Michael, Andre, Tony, and Junior were also back in action.

The energy and attitude of the team has never been better. It is exciting to coach to see all the the players so excited to play and so full of energy even after the game. We were adjusting to a new style of soccer, playing without walls, seven a side, but managed a win on our first game. Tonight we played much better strategically against a strong opponent. Although we can improve a lot, we gave our selves the opportunity to win, but missed several easy chances, including an open goal shot to tie the game in the last minute. Two moments stick out, when our goalie collided with the opponent and instead of following the ball went straight to our opponent to see if he was alright. Well done, Tony Kelley. Then after the game, new team member called for an early morning practice at 6am in order to get ready for next week. Actually though, we have a bye this week, so player will be setting their season and life goals as well as practicing for our next game october 8th.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ron Miller writes about his experience at the Homeless World Cup for Orato Magazine

This story was written by Charlotte's own Ron Miller. Ron, who was with us as part of Team USA at the HWC, wrote this for Orato, a webpage featuring FIRST PERSON, citizen journalism from around the world. We admire Ron for expressing his feelings and emotions as he chronicles here his battle out of homelessness and playing street soccer with Team USA and with Street Soccer 945.

To see the article in full visit: http://www.orato.com/node/3454

By Ronnie Miller , Brooklyn, New York 09/05/07

I'm from Brooklyn, New York. I lived there my whole life. I’m not really comfortable with telling you how I ended up on the street.

I have no experience playing soccer. I just came out there and started playing down at the Urban Ministry, and I just stuck with it. A buddy of mine was already playing soccer there, and he introduced me. I wound up joining in the practices and then I just stuck with it.

It helped me to be more of a people person, interacting with others. On the team, you meet so many other people with different backgrounds and you have to learn how to adapt to these people. The coaches there are also a great help, as far as getting things done, helping you set up interviews – right now, I got steady work and a steady place to stay, so everything has been positive. It’s been a good turn around.

Once you take a blow like that and you’re down to nothing, you gotta build your self-esteem back up. It’s all about building your confidence, with your teammates cheering you on, giving you different pointers on and off the field.

Being out on the street, I’ve seen a lot of things. There are a lot of young people that are homeless, and some that just have nothing to do with their time. If they get involved something like this and it’s positive and will build them up to be a better person, no matter what they’ve been in the past, then I think it’s very much needed.

This year, we traveled to Denmark, Copenhagen for the Homeless World Cup.

When you’re homeless, you don’t think about flying thousands of miles to somewhere else to play some soccer – that’s not the first thing that hits. It’s far fetched from the mind at that time.

We had 48 other countries out there. It’s really about trying to bring awareness about homelessness and trying to give motivation and show that you can do better with your life. For me, I felt great out there, trying to break the stereotype of what” homeless” is. We’re more than just what everybody is brought up to think.

I was representing the USA team, and I went out there and played my best. I just enjoyed the camaraderie of all the other teams, meeting other people from different places, knowing that you’re not the only one struggling out there. These guys all have good stories – they’ve turned their lives around, so all that is an inspiration to you to say you can get back on your feet.

It was a wonderful feeling just to be able to go out there – the shock didn’t hit until we came back that we just went across the world and played in a world cup. I don’t even know how to really put it. It was a great experience meeting people from different nationalities and being able to converse with them and swap stories. It was about more than just playing soccer.

When you’re out here on the street, you build your own little communities – you’re networking within the homeless community that you’re in, sometimes to get ahead.

I got my job and I got a place to stay, and if a dude that I know looked out for me, showed me where to go, how to get there, what agency does what – if he needs to come take a shower, or he’s fatigued and he needs to get some rest because he needs to go to work, then my door’s open.

I love my kids. I always got to give them a nice shout out. She’s only two and he’s one, but I have brought them to soccer practice before - and that’s my motivation right now.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Final Day

Daniel, Ray, and Elmer show of the Ombold Trophy competion plate for fourth place as well as their medals. The US earned the respect of its opponents and the referees after an excellent showing in the Cup. We will return home proud and ready to share our story.

An exciting final saw Scotland beat Poland to win the Homeless World Cup.

You can see the large crowd as well as Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik in the brown jacket next to HWC president Mel Young.

Thanking the crowd

pregame photo before our final match against Greece.

Ambassador Cain returned to watch our quarter final victory over Argentina. You can see our players and coaches, the Ambassador in the red tie and Dave Tyahla from the US Soccer Foundation--the charitable arm of the US Soccer Federation, on the US sideline for the match.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Penalties again . . .

The US beat Argentina 6-4 when Michael McGregor scored a late goal and Daniel Martinez added another. For the US it was another in a string of victories. The win also placed them in the semifinals of the Ombold Trophy competition. After dominating and improved Austria squad, the US gave up a goal at the end the end of the first half and then again just one second before the end of the match to finish in a tie. Sharp play in the field did not extend to tidy finishing in front of the net as the US really should have openned a wider advantage. Despite two saves by keeper Reggie Jones, the US missed it's final penalty, allowing Austria to advance to the final. Reggie was in tears after the game, but after the initial sadness wore offf, the team still felt disappointed, but know in their hearts that they have a lot to be proud of.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Ambassador Cain Attends match--USA gets 2 wins in 2 matches

Ambassador Cain, former president of the Carolina Hurricanes--the championship NHL hockey team, cheered from the US sidelines and spent time with several players before and after the match. Here he poses with the entire team.

Ambassador Cain, a North Carolinian himself shared his personal coin with Rob and Lawrence. Here he is with Rob explaining the design which is a sports motif encompassing both the Danish and American flags.

Here is Lawrence with the Ambassador chatting about the team and Ambassador Cain North Carolina roots.

On the walk back to the dorm after their second win of the day (6-1 over Canada; 8-4 over Kyrgystan) we caught up with Pop and Reggie who had stopped to help a little boy and his mother put the chain back on the boy's bike. Ray was with us and lended his expertise to finish the job. What sweet ambassadors.

USA wins big over Austria and Slovenia, tie Greece and goes down on penalties.

Despite the loss the US shows great sportsmanship running to thankt the crowd with their Greek opponents.

Captain Daniel consults with the referee before the penalty shootout.

Our team warms up for the big match against Greece.

Elmer scores on a penalty kick.

Three matches in one day was a challenge emotionally and physically. Here Reggie grimaces, preparing for the final match against greece.

Our guys have been in great spirits, acting as true goodwill ambassadors meeting Europeans, African, and fellow Americans traveling abroad.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

US ties ireland 8-8, but go down on penalties, then beats India

Michael McGregor, pictured here, scored one of the goals of the tournament on a rare header goal, field in a long lob from Daniel Martinez and redirecting it into the ned. This gave the US its first lead 2-1 after going down early. The US proceeded to dominate the match, leading 6-4 at half, giving up a goal at the final buzzer. That goal would haunt the Americans when a late equalizer gave the Irish a tie. The Irish subsequently advanced after the first round of sudden death penalities.

For the US, the match showed the crowd the true caliber of our team, but the result was disappointing. Nevertheless, the team has been in good spirits. Last night on their own initiative they all went out on a midnight bike ride together on the free urban bike progam here in Copenhagen. Congrats to our boys despite the tought loss.

Monday, July 30, 2007

USA beats Slovakia!

Our first victory had everything you love about sports in it. With Dave out due to injury we moved Reggie into the net and put Daniel into the field where he made immediate impact scoring the first goal. Then, moments later he recieved a blue card once again early in the game for a call that seemed like it could have gone either way. We preach fair play before every match, and our players, many of whom came to us with anger issues, were put the test once again. We stayed composed and kept Slovakia off the scoreboard even playing a man down. Reggie made several tremendous saves including two penalty kicks. Pop had to step in after Daniel's card and delivered an incredibel performance in a new position in a hard fought match. In the end our discipline wore them down. We poured on several goals in the second half and won 6-1. Here is the picture after the game of the guys in high spirits.

The first game was rough. We ask our players to observe fair play at all times. When Michael McGregor slipped he tried avoid the opposing player, but inexplicably recieved a blue a card and had to leave the field. Shortly there after, Dave, Michael brother, suffered a bruised knee after a rough tackle. Here is a picture of the brothers in the training tent after the match. Spirits were low after the match, but we were proud of our team for maintaining their sportsmanship in match that infuriated them more with every passing minute. Congrats to Burundi who shrugged off visa problems to surpass us 4-2.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Match Day One

We played the runner up in last year's World Cup, a tough Kazahkastan in the first match. Reggie Jones scored first for the USA, but after two own goals we lost our nerve and tried to scramble back rather than stick to our disciplined defense and offensive strategy. The game ended 10-3 after Michael and Reggie added the 2nd and 3rd goals of the tournament. We learned a lot from Kazahkastan and the guys can't wait to get back out there for our 4pm match with Burundi to day.

The USA was drawn in the last group with Kazahkastan, Burundi, and Slovakia. We marched through the streets of Copenhagen with 48 countries tou our first match, cheering and singing till we all lost our voices.

Motivational Speaker Kevin Caroll addressed all nations, telling them a ball changed his life and that a ball had changed their lives as well. He said they needed to keep following that ball whether it remained a soccer ball or became a metaphor for their next dream in life. With this forward looking attitude, the games began.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Arrival in Copenhagen

Dave and Rob sport the US Soccer Federation gear at the openning dinner as the reality of being in Europe set in for everyone. Pop said he felt like he was in a time capsule. He said he got up every hour last night and just had to walk down stairs and stick his head out the door to make sure it was really real. Michael Blackwell and Reginald Jones got up early and already saw the royal palace and the parliament. We are really proud of our group who is soaking up the experience. Our team meeting was very serious and focused. The team sett goals to exhibit great teamwork, return to the us with dignity, show sportsmanship, and to win the whole dern tournament.

The team makes their way to the openning night dinner!

Daniel Martinez, our team captain, has done everything right for the past 8 months. He's moved into a permanent job, moved out of the shelter, bought a car. He's also a mature postitive influence on other team members. He applied for his passport 3 months ahead of the trip. There was a strike in Honduras which delayed matters, and then we learned a week ago that even though Daniel presented a proper birth certificate and his expired passport, green card, and other supporting documents, the Honduran secretary of foreign relations wouldn't issue his passport. Daniel never had a father growing up, so his mother changed his name to remove his father's sir name. Back then, in Honduras, everything was hand written. When the system was computerized, the goverment failed to update his info and the new birth certificate number Daniel was using belonged to someone else in their system. After hours on the phone with embassy and secretary of consular affairs in honduras and with the help of some lawyers we were able to correct the situation at the last possible moment. We got the code to print Daniel passport the night before our departure. Daniel and I celebrated prematurely however, because the greatest challenge would be getting the passport to us in time to leave. I worked the phones all morning to get the proper people in touch with each other so that the passport could be printed early in the day, then arranged for a courier service to ship it from DC to Newark. Here is a photo of Daniel and myself picking up the passport 2 hours before our flight. We jumped up and down and hugged and had the airport worker shoot this celebration photo. Our hearts soared and now we would could relax and enjoy the experience of a lifetime.

Before the trip we watched videos about Denmark, looked at maps of the world and Europe and then watched Gridirion Gang to pump us up.

Monday, July 23, 2007

US Cup and Conference 2007 PHOTOS!








Wednesday, July 18, 2007

US Cup and Conference 2007

US Cup and Organizing Conference 2007 starts thursday with National Team practice followed by a meet and greet of conference attendees at the Fox and Hound. The Conference is designed to launch Street Soccer USA, the national organizing body that will support the new programs starting up around the country. Programm graduates will share their experiences, corporate sponsors will speak, and community activists from the University of Nort Carolina will speak about designing succesful community projects.

The Conference Runs all day on friday from 9am -4pm (to attend call 704 926 0618 or 704 926 0633--also call if you want to register a team in the US for upcoming Cups and to be elegible to play in future Homeless World Cups).

Friday evening at 5pm there will be a rules demonstration followed by a Community Open Mic and cookout.

After a follow up session Saturday morning, Games begin at 1:30 at 945 N. College Street and last until 7pm.

Parking is available across the street at the Charlotte Area Fund on North Tryon.

Atttached is a conference schedule.conferenceinfo.doc