Sunday, April 1, 2007

8-4 Victory in New Brixx Unis

Osman Mohammed (pictured in the very center), in our dealings with him, has comported himself at all times like a mild mannered gentleman, respectful and willing to help out in any manner necessary. In contrast to his greying beard and temples, Mohammed’s soft brown eyes seem childlike and innocent. He is from Sudan where he fondly remembers teaching school and coaching a youth soccer team. The details he gives of the past contrast with the vague nature of his present vagary. Having lived in North Carolina for 14 years, Mohammed, 65, can’t remember the names of his friends or how he lost his documents and belongings. He thinks he suffered an injury on the job, but he is not sure. A volunteer counselor at the Urban Ministry Center who also volunteers at the men’s shelter remembers him as someone who yelled at her, spit on the floor, and didn’t understand how a women could tell him what to do. Mohammed has no recollection of that and was as courteous as could be here. For his part he says he never stayed at the Shelter for lack of state ID, and has been living at the emergency winter shelter. Is he suffering from memory loss? Is the volunteer mistaken? We have worked with Mohammed to recover his documents, and he will pick up his new copy of driver’s liscense on Tuesday. He has no criminal history and has shown no signs of a dark side so far. In fact. he seems just to be a delightful character.

Since winter emergency shelter ends on Sunday, Mohammed will have to sleep rough for a few nights, he supposes, until he can claim social security benefits, and hopefully begin to work again, now that he has identification. Last week Mohammed started for Street Soccer 945 in their 8-4 victory over Fort Mill. After his first practice, Mohammed said his whole body ached, but it that it was a good ache. “This is very good for me, and it makes me feel normal again,” says Mohammed. At 65, his endurance isn’t excellent, but he still has quick feet, and showed flashes of brilliance with a few subtle touches in heavy traffic. He sent his best chance to score, a volley from 12 yards out, over the cross bar, but Mohammed was just happy to have an activity. "There is so much time that I must wait to get my documents. Often, I have nowhere to go."

Reaching out to someone like Mohammed who was otherwise disoriented and disconnected is what Street Soccer is all about. Additionally, in Wednesday’s victory, Street Soccer 945 saw the return of Ghanaian born “Prince” (pictured at left, reclining) to the roster. Like, Mohammed, Prince has a soccer-past. Suffering from mental illness, Prince has been living in uptown, Charlotte, and has cycled through good states and states of extreme delusions. When you have known someone as such a bright light, full of compassion and intelligence, to see them suffering form a mental disease is heartbreaking. As coach Rob put it, “To see Prince on the soccer field, you see a great player, making smart manuevers, reading the game, and rising to the occasion. For a moment he free from all that affliction.” As we build trust, Prince is more and more receptive to treatment. The team too, has rallied around him, especially after he pulled the ball behind his legs, gave a defence splitting pass, and got the ball back, danced (and I mean danced!) past once defender before beating the goal keeper with a sharp finish to reclaim the lead for our team in the second half.

Patrick is a 20-year old who watched the game last week. He poke frankly about his mistakes in life and feels joining the team will help him maintain his focus and get himself off the street. “Especially after watching him [Prince] last night, I mean, soccer is awesome.”

Another 20-year old was our man of the match. C-White, who has played soccer for less than a year, scored the first goal and our crucial 6th goal when he made a soft first touch into the space in front of him and shot the ball hard into the lower left corner of the goal. White’s relationship with the team has been protracted for several months, time of both personal struggle and growth. He has only been able to work temporary jobs and he hopes his interview this weekend at Carowinds (that teammate Tony Kelly secured for him) will give him regular employment even if the wage is not all he hoped for. You can see his interview posted on our blog coming this Wednesday. It is amazing to hear him talk and smile to a camera when before, he wouldn't even engage in conversation when spoken to directly.

Finally, no account of our jubilant victory would be complete without reference to our stylish new uniforms provided by sponsor Brixx Pizza. Our team was proud and inspired to be looking good on the field. Thanks to Rob of Brixx and all those with Brixx that help support our players in their efforts every week.

This week gametime is 6pm at the Sports Warehouse. Hope to see you there.

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