Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Street Soccer 945 latest action and a farewell to Craig

There was a lot of dissapointment when we counted up our goals after the game realized that the 10-10 tie should have been an 11-10 victory. In an excellent game that saw the Dave and Michael McGregor score 3 goals each, Street Soccer 945 came back from an early 4-0 defecit to lead the game 9-6 late in the second half. The team failed to convert some golden opportunities and gave up some soft goals in the closing minutes in its third league match of the winter season.

The question right now on the team is “Who is the story?” Or, I suppose, better posed, “Who isn’t the story?” There is simply an amazing group of folks with an amazing array of obstacles making community around our team. The program has never been stronger.
We had more players than uniforms for tonight’s games. The roster included Amil Livingston and his son Prince, Pedro Campillo, Elmer Nunez, Jorge Lopez, C. White, Pop Miller, Cyrus Wuor, Dave McGregor, Michael McGregor, Brian Thompson, Andrey Wannamaker, Toney Kelly, Fred Harrell, Lawrence and Rob Cann. Also on hand were fans Kate Mayes and Kelly Sunrift.

Craig Holley could most certainly be the story. We had a farewell dinner with Craig before he moved in with his mom and sister in Brooklyn, New York. Over a year ago when he started the program Craig was trying to move away from a crowd of small time drug dealers and petty thieves. He was 18 years old and completely alone. He started coming to soccer practices while working in the kitchen at the Raceway in Concord. He would sleep outside the raceway the night before he had morning shift. Later he got a job at Mert’s Heart and Soul and kept it for 9 months. James Bazelle, owner of Mert’s told him he could come back and work in Charlotte anytime. It was as a US National Team player that Craig contacted his mother for the first time in six years and met up with her during our two day stop over in the Big Apple before departing for South Africa. He had been told that she was sick and dying and didn’t want to see him. Quite to the contrary his mom is strong and hadn’t known how to find Craig.

Craig was funny at our farewell dinner. He wanted to go to Rock Bottom because he always wondered what it was like on the inside. He was super paranoid and felt like the waiter was making fun of him and that people were staring at him. Everyone can tell I have been on the streets, he said. He wanted to know what do with his silverware, that sort of thing. He said, I am not ever going to forget where I came from. We spent most of the dinner reflecting on the last year. Most of Craig’s highlights were memories of people, accounts of all the “spots” he had slept in, and the soccer competitions in Charlotte and Capetown, but what Craig remembered about the competitions were not the games but the new people he met at the events. After the dinner, which was Craig’s idea, he had a hard time getting out of coach Rob’s car. He left on a bus at 3am and called a day later to say he gotten in safely. He said to say hello to a bunch of people, mostly soccer players and staff members Debbie, Megan, and Ashley in particular. He said he was coming back in Febuary for his rhyming peformance at Queen’s university that he and fellow teammate Pop Miller were invited to. The team misses Craig’s hustle, and well, we all just miss him. Only 20 year old this past November, we plan to keep in touch with Craig for a long time.

But Craig wasn’t here last night for the game so the team had to pick up the slack. New goalie Brian Thompson could easily be the story of the team. 31 years old, Brian is from Lexington North Carolina. He’s got a smile that reminds me of Mark McGuire and his entire attitude and accent are about as all-american as you can get. Brian’s story is that he lost all his worldy possesions and his job bartending in Daytona, Florida due to salmonilla poisoning. He came to Charlotte to start again. He chose Charlotte because of his fond experience 18 months ago when he found himself in between jobs and using the Urban Ministry Center’s telephones. He was on the street for about 5 days during which time he attended two soccer practices and played in a game. Brian’s easy-going demeanor and reliability have been a real gift to Street Soccer 945 since he joined the team just three weeks ago. No wonder he’s already been hired as a bartender at a new bar getting ready to open in Uptown. A natural athelte, something about soccer just thrills Brian. He’s been a calm and positive influence on others and has really embraced his roll in our community with a lot of folks that don’t seem or look like they would have much and common with him. As Pop Miller would say, “Real Talk:” Brian is a clean cut, handsome, solidly built white guy who could charm the skin off a snake. Not to many people on our team fit that description. In any event, Brian has tracked down documents to get his ID, been searching for another job, and has changed his personal email address to goalie945@yahoo.com . Please send him an email of encouragement. We’re happy to have him.

But why Brian when we could talk about Dave and Michael? Michael Shows up with dry wall mud caked in his hair and on his jeans. He has been paying most of the rent for his nephew, mother, and three siblings by working contruction. He walked from the job to the UMC to get ready for the game. Michale was supposed to meet with me this week to go over to CPCC to register for his GED Class. He is working all the time so getting free during the week is hard for Michael but he has recently taken his entry test for the GED and will start classes soon. Dave is putting his head in the books and trying to keep Junior out of trouble as they both work to maintain decent grades at school. David, meanwhile, has also been applying for jobs at McDonalds and other fast food retaurants to help pitch in for the rent. Dave said he could work every night, except for Wednesday's, because thats game night. "I can never miss a game, I dream about our league games," he said. It has truly been a pleasure to watch this family overcome the odds mainly becuase their additude and the smiles they keep on their faces despite the struggle they face everyday to keep their heads above water. You can rest assured that Dave and Michael will be here next Wednesday for our game just like for this weeks game. Most likley Michael will be dusty and dirty from work and Dave will be warmed up from walking 5 fives to get to the Urban Ministry Center in time to leave for the game. They will probably each score a handful of goals too!

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