Friday, December 12, 2008

Urban Street Soccer Festival

We are co-hosting an Urban Street Soccer Festival with Concrete2Green at Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC.

The event flier is attached. Go check it out if you are in the area.

The field set up here in this photo is inside the mall and can be looked down on from 3 shopping levels. What a spectacular venue! Our street soccer court is replacing a defunct skating rink. The mall is letting us keep the pitch there indefinitely. Eastland Mall is in a "diverse" part of town as they say in Charlotte--in other words, it's an urban mall with lots of African American, Latinos, and Vietnamese clients. Posting up in Eastland is great way to give folks in this urban setting easy access to playing soccer in the exciting 4vs4 format.

True as well that homeless teens often hang out in malls, so it might be great progammatic outreach for us as well.eastlandflyr

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fair Play Award for Johnny Figueroa from NIKE

Johnny was one of only four players chosen by Nike as Fair Play winners from the entire tournament. Johnny joined players from Uganda, Scotland, and Finland. Each received 500 dollars credit to the Nike store. Johnny bought backpacks for his teammates.

Much credit to Johnny for his work off the field as well. Johnny started school last fall while in the emergency shelter. This spring he earned a scholarship to study abroad in Italy.

Get ready for a Street Soccer Festival in Charlotte

Concrete 2 Green and Street Soccer USA are kicking off the first of many more Street Soccer Festivals

A Few Recent Shots

The US Team has become more and more cohesive.

Tad Christie got his first goal against India.

Carlos has earned the nickname, "Chihuahau," after moving to goalie. He has save three key penalty kicks, earning the US three wins.

Jeremy has partnered with Johnny to create a formidable US defence. His concentration has been the glue for the US team.

Dick Gordon's The Story: Our own Corey Bracy-Cruz

Listen to Corey's warm heart and amazing story on Dick Gordon's stellar program, The Story.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Clinton Global University Initiative

Much credit and congratulations to a group of students at the University of Virginia led by Junior Garett Trent, a former high school intern of mine, and Sophomore Trigg Brown. The students applied and were accepted for the CGIU conference. The proposal was to bring the Univeristy together with the business community and homeless servce agencies to find solutions to the problem of homelessness in their immediate community. They proposed creat a Street Soccer USA team as key part of their strategy to bring the community together. We expect to see Charlottesville at the US Cup next July. Hopefully their efforts will establish a replicable model for other Univeristies and university students to engage in solving homelessness.

Check back for more updates from the students as they dive into their initiative.

P.S. Another high school intern, Lane Baldwin, at Chapel Hill has organized students groups in a similar fashion from the University of North Carolina. We will see how the Tar Heels and the Cavs do in DC next summer.

Action Shots!

Photo credits to the lovely Natja Rosner.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New York Times Blog # 2

Link here for the second edition of our exclusivec content for the New York Times.
Much thanks to Jack Bell and editor Jeffery Marcus for this platform!

Monday, December 1, 2008

HWC DAY 1: Video Log

See some shots here from team USA's Day 1 experience at the Homeless World Cup.

Our team has shown great enthusiasm. We played one of the top teams and lost game one to Ireland.

In our second match we played Romania. Substitutions disrupted an even match and Romania cruised to victory in the second half by a comfortable margin.

I witnessed Alex Mwambi's Kenyan squad dispatch Germany 11-2, as well as Arcady's Russian squad get off to a 2-0 start with impressive passing and gentelmanly play as they beat Cambodia in their second match by 12 goals or so.

Here is the box score on the USA's first match

Starting 5 USA players
-Tim (goalkeeper)

Sub-in included: Jeremy, Tad and Diego

Score Sheet/Tracker
1st Half
-Ireland scores (1-0), 49 seconds into match
-USA scores (1-1), 1:53 into the match (Cornelius: Goal 1, Penalty Shot)
-USA goalkeeper, excellent right shoulder save at 2:42
-USA goalkeeper, excellent diving save at 3:32
-Ireland scores (2-1), 4:04 into the match
-Ireland scores (3-1), 5:32 into the match
-Ireland scores (4-1), 6:59 into the match
Half time: Ireland 4 USA 1

2nd Half
-Ireland scores (5-1), 1:18
-Ireland scores (6-1), 1:49
-Ireland scores (7-1), 2:25
-Ireland scores (8-1), 3:24
-Ireland scores (9-1), 5:09
-Ireland scores (10-1), 6:01
-USA Scores (10-2), 6:49, (Cornelius: Goal 2)
-Ireland scores (11-2), 7:11

Final Score: Ireland 11 USA 2
USA (0-1) after first day of match play: 12/1/2008

Kim Milton Neilsen

Attention soccer buffs. I am pictured here with Kim Milton, the world class referee famous to some, infamous to others, for giving David Beckham a red card against Argentina in World Cup 1998. Kim refereed in Copenhagen last year and has traveled all the way to Melbourne to be a part of this years HWC.

HWC 2008: Weblog # 3, The Journey and the Draw

The long haul to the land down under began Thanksgiving Day at the Echo Park, CA home of Lawrence and Alice Purcell and their daughter Taylor. Lawrence is the first cousin of my Dad. It’s not often our family is out in LA, and the the visit to cousin Lawrence’s included not only immediate family but the Street Soccer Family as well.

Check out the photo of our feast above.

From cousin’s house we headed straight to LAX. The first leg of the trip would take us 13 hours to New Zealand before we traveled another 6 hours in the air to Melbourne. For Tim Cummings of Charlotte, this was the first flight he had ever taken. Tim is our forty year old goalie. He’s been drug free now for two year’s and been off the street longer than any other player on our team. For 24 year old Jeremy Wisham from Atlanta, flying was nothing new to him. Jeremy, who grew up homeless with his single mom, spent his his money and free time traveling, at least until the home he was buying burned to the ground. Although coaches had applied for all the player’s visa and seen full color copies of each one, we failed to inspect each individual passport. This almost turned out to be a tragic oversight. Jeremy’s passport was torn at the corner and at LAX the New Zealand Air officials refused to let him fly. You can see a picture of Jeremy here arriving a day late in Melbourne. We had to make an emergency meeting a the consulate and put Jeremy up for an additional night in LA so he could get a replacement passport. Jeremy arrived during team check in on Sunday at Melbourne University.

African drums from Ghana and Zambia sounded while Aussie’s in bright orange “Socceroo” soccer kits cheered arriving teams from Ethiopia, Argentina, Russia, Kenya, Italy, and many more. When Jeremy found our table, the squad erupted into a spontaneous, “YES WE CAN, YES WE CAN, YES WE CAN.” The other nations certainly didn’t grasp what had happened but they had heard the cheer and joined in.

I was able to visit with Alex Mwambi of Kenya, Arcady Tyurin of Russia, and Mick of Ireland, all stars of Kicking It who continue to work with their projects.

Later in the Evening, we gathered for the 2008 Homeless World Cup draw. The United States team found ourselves in group one with two of the tournament’s favorites, Alex’s Kenyan squad, and Mick’s Irish side. The entire group includes:

Kenya, Ireland, France, USA, Hong Kong, Romania.

We will play 5 games between Monday and Wednesday. Ireland, our toughest opponent is up first. The top three team in each group will advance to the top tier tournament, while the bottom three will play in the lower tier group. Whatever the case, each team will play 13 matches.

I will be giving updates on other teams and from Kicking It as well as other friends of our team from Melbourne. Otherwise visit for complete results and fixtures.

To date the organizers have provided the players with nothing short of first class treatment as athletes. A resounding opening event was capped by an Aboriginal Dance Ceremony, a challenge by HWC founder Mel Young to chose the hard, rocky path that leads to ending homelessness in the world, and Brazilian Samba band which released the 50 some countries present into raptures of fellowship and celebration. Tomorrow is the parade of nations. Viva el Futbol, let the games begin!

HWC 2008: Weblog # 2, Los Angeles

Jeff Werner is the co-director and editor of Kicking IT, the Ted Leonsis film which aired on ESPN this fall. Like director of the film, Susan Koch, Jeff and his wife Elyse, remain passionate about and personally involved in the causes they document well after the life of the movie is finished; so much so that Jeff and Elyse hosted our entire entourage of 16 players, coaches, and one embedded writer from Harper’s Magazine in their Sherman Oaks home, just 20 minutes from downtown LA. This photo is of breakfast in their home. Coach Sara and the team take over the kitchen.

The experience of staying in the Werner home provided just what we wanted for our training camp: a close-knit family feeling. In fact, 13 of the players and coaches slept shoulder to shoulder on the floor in the living room. Some slept on cots that Jovenes, Inc., our LA street soccer partner, provided.

I talk often about the power of our program to build social skills necessary in the work place, and with relating to larger society in general. Well, I am not so sure Street Soccer USA can take full credit this year’s sweet talkers. I am hoping they can turn on the charm with the referees to the degree they have with our hosts all week in LA.

Tad Christie is most gifted with the gab of all. A former bull rider before having his face kicked, Tad has been around. In fact, he has been on his own since the age of 12. The first period of stability in his life was a 10 year marriage. It was also his last period of stability. Once divorced Tad fell into a deep depression, turned to alcohol and the drugs of his youth. He has spent the last five year’s homeless, mostly outdoors. Reclusive a year ago, Tad is now the most likely to reach out and tease you. When our hostess asked him at the breakfast table where he was from, Tad launched into a his personal history which ended with the words, “ so they think I am most likely Charlies Manson’s son, which explain some the urges I feel late at night.”

“Well, that is really a . . .surprising story,” our hostess commented nervously before we all cracked the silence with boisterous laughter. The more nervous Tad jokes, the faster the jokes come. By the end of our LA adventure Tad felt so well liked that he even shared a comfortable silence with the group in the van on the way to the airport. If you know Tad at all, you realize what singular achievement this is.

As much as Tad’s humor and good nature has won over his teammates, and as much as we all eagerly await in whose jacket pocket Tad’s false teeth are going to show up next, I think Tad’s obvious dedication to training has been the real key factor in winning the respect of his teammates.

During our first team training session we ran up Fryerman trail. It’s a steep quarter mile up the Hollywood hillside before it continues to climb another half mile before culminating in a level trail along the spine of the hills with impressive vistas to either side.

At 37 Tad is one of the older members of the squad. His wiry build belies his fitness. As we charged up the hillside in a run designed to see who had been following our recommend fitness schedule, tad led from the beginning, and finished the training run together with Diego and Cornelius of Santa Rosa, California ahead of the pack.

Equally if not more impressive is Tad’s advancement on the ball since June. He scavenged four goals against our scrimmage opponents at the Soccer Arena Soccerplex in Orange on Wednesday, tying Cornelius for top scorer. Unlikely to start, Tad could provide a big lift for the team off the bench.

In our team meeting we asked everyone what this team was all about. Tad said that the organizers saw something in him that he failed to see in himself. He continued, “This team is about the good in all of us and we can’t ever lose site of that.

. . .

If Tad will provide the team with goals off the bench, Cornelius will be key to scoring goals for us as a started. He and his coach from the San Francisco area, Julius Ujeh, joined us at the MLS Cup where we were guests of the league. We watched Columbus Crew play a disciplined game to beat the New York Red Bulls. While Tad’s transformation was not obvious, Cornelius’s announced itself at the MLS Cup. His physique was hardened. He was quiet, but spoke with confidence. Gone was the chubbiness and self doubt that lingered I June in DC. In our first scrimmage against youth from the Disney Goals program in Anaheim, Cornelius stood out as our biggest hope for Homeless World Cup success.

Please link here to read about Cornelius’s amazing life turn around. At nationally recognized youth player, Cornelius was recruited nationally and accepted a scholarship to Howard in DC. He never made it to campus. Cornelius got involved in gangs and drugs. He ended up addicted and homeless for three years. When coach Julius showed up at the Rescue Mission talking about soccer, Cornelius’s heart soared. At first Julius did not belief all of Corey’s talk, but Corey proved it on the field. When Cornelius got permission from his probation officer to travel abroad, the judge turned to the other folks in custody and said, “I want you to take a good look at this young man. He is an example to all of you, of what you can do if you make a decision to improve your life.”

HWC 2008: Weblog # 1

Above players Diego, Carlos, Tad, and Jeremy wait for the opening ceremonies with the stars and stripes. It was a long journey to get here. After making the national team and securing travel documents, each player still had to get on the plane and meet the squad in LA. For me and Diego it began in New York:

I carry the warmth of my apartment with me into the cold. Before I arrive at 14th street Union Square, I’ve turned my coat collar up and sped up my pace. I’m blowing big white clouds every fourth step. The warmth I carried with me lasted about block.

The subway station is completely empty. 5 or 6 trains rumble in and and lumber off. No sign of Diego. I walk above ground into the wind and the dark, call Diego’s cell again, more to kill time than in hopes of actually reaching him. 5:30am was the appointed meeting time.

6:10. The phone rings and I walk out again, “Hello.”

“Hello . . . Lorenzo, why don’t you have a warm coat on?”

“Because we are going to Australia,” I say, hanging the up the phone and embracing Diego, who is putting down his phone too.

7 hours later, we relax our shoulders in the LA warmth. We put our jackets in our bags and dig around for our sunglasses.

The LA cabby says, “Diego, that’s my son’s favorite name. He always says, Papa, why you don’t call me Diego?”

“Yeah,” Diego says, “everyone loves my name. They ask me. ‘are you good at soccer like Diego Maradona?’ I say, ‘Yes.Actually I am better. He is old and fat and I am fast and young” Diego laughs and smiles winningly.

In a tight white t-shirt, loose fitting leather jacket and oversize shades, our Diego looks more like a men’s fashion model than a poster boy for homelessness. His eyes are soft and he knows how to communicate familiarity with a friendly wrinkle of the brow. “People look at me and think I’m black,” he expresses. “Then I start speaking Spanish and they are like, ‘What?!’ They don’t know that there a like millions of people like me in Latin America.

At 17 Diego left his relatives’ home and dropped out of high school. For the next 10 years he lived on his own. He ended up a mortgage broker until he lost his job over a year ago. Then he was robbed of all his documents. Without documents even his old employers wouldn’t hire him. He had to check into a shelter. Things went from bad to worse as you might imagine.

Frustrated, Diego’s hackles pricked up at the slightest criticism. He wanted respect, but instead he felt like he was grouped with the rest of the crowd. He was told he had an anger management problem. This made him angry.

In the beginning, Diego said he had better things to do than play soccer. He needed to look for work. Two months later he had only found day labor jobs. Finally he gave into the coach and joined the team for practice. At the Homeless USA Cup in DC this past June, Diego’s off the field frustrations showed up on the field. He complained to referees, yelled at teammates, so much so that I had to pull him aside as organizer. I told him that his attitude was outshining his talent, that it was pity to see. Impressively Diego reversed course. Even the referees singled him out for praise as someone who transformed during the course of the tournament. When Diego was chosen for the national team, he said that the tournament had been a revelation to him: he had no idea how negative and defeatist he had become.

Since the tournament Street Soccer USA fronted Diego the money for his green card application and helped him secure a temporary work permit while he waits for the application to process. Things have been going well. In fact he moved out of the shelter and into small studio just two weeks before the Homeless World Cup competition.

Diego missed much of the action with the team in LA due to a bruised bone in his foot. His immediate challenge is to manage the frustration of being injured. If he recovers he could be a key play in the attack for the US coming opening day of the tournament.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New York Times GOAL BLOG

I will be bloggging for the New York Times Goal blog as the guest of blogger Jack Bell. Much thanks to him and the times for giving us this platform.

In the post linked to above, I describe the team's training camp in LA, how charging into the water together was a metaphor for what Street Soccer USA tries to do everyday. Check out the photo of the moment (photo credit to Natja Rosner).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Do the Kangaroo from St. Louis, Missouri!

National Team member Oscar Granberry was homeless for over a year. After a divorce he left home and moved into his car. He drove up to St. Louis from Louisiana in hopes of making a fresh start. After a year of bad luck and brooding, Oscar started getting meals at the Peter and Paul Community Service Center. That's where he was asked to join the center's soccer team. After making the national pool at the Homeless USA Cup in DC, Oscar felt renewed hope and determination to get off the street. The first thing he realized when he got back was that his car was stolen. He spent July and August sleeping rough. Despite the adversity Oscar says he never felt more positive or confident. The soccer team and his coach Keith Deisner at the Peter and Paul Community Service Center supported Oscar emotionally during what was a very long fall.

Today Oscar rents his own loft in downtown St. Louis. He moved in last month. He hopes to become a cook in at the restaurant where he has worked since August.

Thursday he leaves for Australia.

Kicking IT Star Wins 5k!

A week a go last Saturday the star of the ESPN Documentary KICKING IT, directed by Susan Koch, and produced by Ted Leonsis, Craig Holley, traveld to Belmont Abbey College with fellow members of the Street Soccer 945 program of the Urban Ministry Center for 5K race.

The race benefited Street Soccer 945 to the tune of $1,500. For next year, the college is making plans to expand the campaign to raise ten times as much for the program. Street Soccer 945 is thrilled with student and staff enthusiasm for the cause and the attention they gave to the players.

Nine players from Street Soccer 945 completed the 5k. Craig, who know has had steady work since mid summer and and rents his own place with a roommate, won the men's division.

In the next Street Soccer 945 match, Craig called for himself to be subbed out, a rarity. Craig, what's a matter, are you still tired from the big race, was the coach's question. "No," Craig said, "I was feeling angry and frustrated so I figured I would call myself out instead of doing something stupid."

Kudos to Craig and the progress he continues to achieve.

Friday, November 21, 2008

carlos dc

Street Soccer 945 of Charlotte: Coach's Update

Coach Rob Cann of Street Soccer 945 in Charlotte, NC made sent in the following report on his team:

Street Soccer 945, Charlotte, NC’s Street Soccer program continues to thrive in fall 2008.
Pictured here are team members Ron Miller, Ebony Wright, Devin, US National Tim Cummins, volunteer Roth Scott, Nori Emerson, Elmer Nunez, Hezakiah Washington, volunteer Curtis Gardner, high school students and Charlotte United FC players and now SS945 volunteers Connor and PJ, Santonio William, Juan Padilla, Craig Holley, Jorge Lopez, Toney Kelley. (Hoover and Dwayne missed us last night) We have seen an average of 10 players per practice over the fall and the re-emergence of women to the team. Ebony Wright and Nori Emerson have rarely missed a practice over the last 3 months while sleeping in an abandoned apartment complex. The pair accompanied the team to Washington and Lee as part of the Homelessness and Hunger awareness Week at the University where they shared their experiences with students of living on the street. Nori is working part time and applying to get back in school to finish her associates degree in nursing, while Ebony is working on her GED at CPCC. She was recently hired to work over the winter for the Salvation Army collecting donations as a bell ringer. Nori says “I've never kicked a ball before playing with street soccer, but this keeps me focused and interacting with others who are trying to improve their situation, plus during practice and games I can forget about that I have nowhere to sleep or nowhere to eat. It keeps me sane right now and we all need that.”

Devin another new team member who has just been to 2 practices and played in his first game last night. He commented "We are a different breed of homeless; we are trying to do something with our lives.”

Another new addition this fall is Juan Padilla, a native of Honduras. Juan is an excellent forward who is living at the Men's Shelter. He has no family in the USA. Only 18, he started drinking regularly with a group of other unemployed immigrants. "Soccer," he said, "was better way to spend his time." Juan is due to set his goals with us next week.

We have also seen a surge of volunteers join our community. Curtis Garden and Penny Mann have been coming to training sessions while Roth Scott has been coming to games and helped coach last night. Two high school students mentioned before and also Chris Goodnight.

A noteworthy development has been that players are getting on other players for skipping practice and for having lame excuses. The team ratted out Justin for smoking weed before last night's game; he was not allowed to participate. Tony Kelley had 2 left footed well placed low blasts for goals last night and Coach Cann had a modest hat trick! Tim our national team player was a beast in goal, giving up just 5 goals in 2 games, which is good for us. He has made some great saves that have kept us in both matches. Craig kept his temper in check last night and helped a guy up after fouling him.

On a final note, while our team is moving forward in life as a unit, one player is faltering.

I could write for hours about it, but the short version is he found a place to stay after he left the half way house: another recovery house with 3 others, but nothing established, no rules. On game day, he got his green card receipt for the biometrics. He was excited to play soccer now that he had a place to stay (which we know is usually backwards thinking, he should have been playing the whole time) but nonetheless, the gym was closed yesterday so the team went for a run through uptown and he joined in, completing a long run probably 3 miles or so. He was excited about the game tonight until crack got him. He was in the building ready to play early, he just came back not too long ago, hyper, cursing, the usual behavior of someone drunk and on drugs. I told him while he was grinding against the wall that he wasn’t playing tonight. He was upset of course, bringing attention to himself in the art room knocking boards over, he left my office and was outside and came back. It went on like this for a half hour. The grand finale is that he walked out kicked and dented the van and then threw a rock at the soccer court and dented a car. It hurts. You want to see him get through this; it hurts to see.

Tad and Sabelyn in Austin TX

Public radio did a great feature on Sabelyn and Tad ahead of Tad's participation in the Homeless World Cup. Tad has set an example for other with his spirit and achievement. Sabelyn has been his muse. Sabelyn started the Austin Entourage over a year ago. She's been a model of dedication, consistency and caring for the team. Even when numbers have waned, Sabelyn has been there for the few that needed a coach and a confidant. Tad has blossomed under her tutelage. He's embraced the Street Soccer USA theme of ambassador and advocate. Listen here to the radio piece. You can also link below to see Tad on TV, playing footsie with a local host on "Fitness Friday." Tad will be writing a blog during his travels; stay linked in here to find links to his posts.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sacramento Kicks Off!

Check out their handsome team pictured above (Top row: Rt. to Lt. Monique, Eileen, Alicia, Deon, Christina, Matt, Chris-Director, Bottom Row: Josh, Wes, Cris, Isaac and John)

Team Manager Chris Mann understands the power of sports and has been using sports to catalyze personal development for several years already. Now he's designing programming around Street Soccer USA and the Homeless USA Cup.

The program he leads in Sacramento is developed out of Mather Community Campus and Adolfo Youth Services. This collaborative service provides a comprehensive education and training program for homeless people seeking to change there lives. 182 singles and 55 families with 110 children as well as the Emancipated Foster Youth Program housing 40 residents populate the campus. While Chris has served over 500 people with life changing sports activities, this is the first soccer team of any kind he has implements. In Chris's words, "This event is a god-send to our program. We look forward to being in DC next year and playing with the other folks who are in this life changing event. We are training twice a week and we have been fortunate enough to play in an indoor facility and on site. As the weather turns we will practice in a church gym in our community. The 8 men and 4 women have been training for 2 months now and are very excited about this opportunity."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Big Apple Soccer is a great source for soccer news from the professional to collegiate to amateur level. They posted about Street Soccer USA and will mostly likely do a follow up with interviews the week of our departure for the Homeless World Cup. See the post here

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Diego and the Yankees (HELP USA, NY)

First, great news:

Please be advised that the following applicants from team USA have been
granted a Sponsored Business Short Stay (UL 459) visa.

Applicant's name Client ID Grant number

Mr VIVEROS GAMBOA Diego Mauricio

Diego's case was more complicated since we had to get his green card on track, restore his expired passport, get a reentry permit to the US, and then get a Visa from Australia. It's all done. Diego's life had gotten very frustrating and was falling apart before his eyes. Now he's got his legal permit to work, has a job and thanks to the support of HELP USA will be able to move into his own place shortly.

Once a mortgage broker, he lost his job, and after he was robbed of his wallet including his green card, Diego found himself out of work, money, and documentation. A native of Cali, Colombia, Diego came to the US to find opportunity. Suddenly, he found himself homeless.

Diego's caseworker, Ms. Tsahai Weir, said that, "The soccer experience definitely changed Diego's life. I can honestly say that. He was internalizing his frustration and becoming his own worst enemy. Soccer has been a good outlet for him and he become much more hopeful."

Diego was featured by the YES Network, the Yankees sports network. His feature is near the end of the show that is currently airing in New York. Many thanks to Brian Price of YES who pushed for Diego's story and to DHS of NYC and HELP USA for collaborating to make the interview possible. And thanks to Diego's boss for giving him a shot.

Link here to see the feature.

Adventures in Addis

I got a note from a soccer player friend of mine working in Ethiopia. As he writes, he has been taking part in the national obsession, soccer. His first account of "hustling" on the field is a familiar scene here in the US, where in a time of increasing hardship, leisure is more and more commonly mixed with entrepreneurism. His accounts of the hustling in the stadium there are similar to hustles on the street here. My friend writes, "I've been getting lots of emails asking me how the US election results were received here, and words can't express the excitement and optimism on this side of the globe. The trickle down effect of the collapsing world economies has hit the 3rd world with food prices shooting through the roof and NGO/Relief Groups spending less money each day on development programs. Can Obama help ease the Ethiopian people's troubles? Who knows. But one thing is for sure- judging by the celebrations in the streets on Wednesday, they're buying his message and hopeful things will change." The homeless and impoverished in the US are inspired by Obama for sure, but more cautiously optimistic that in Ethiopia perhaps. Below are my friends notes from Ethiopia:

The first few pictures are from the highest part of the capital, Entoto, most famous for being the training ground for the country's famed runners. The Beijing 5,000/10,000 gold medalist as well as the current marathon world record holder had just finished their training session when my cousin and I arrived. We didn't spot any other runners though- just pickup soccer games. No matter where you go, much like in Latin America or Western Africa, soccer dominates. I was told there was a 1 birr (local currency) per player buy-in to play in the game, so trying to get on my team's good side, I offered to pay everyone's share. But that soon evolved into the other teams doing their best to hustle me into bigger payments and stakes (knowing that I would be the only one to pay) such as "the loser of this game has to buy a new ball" to "the loser of this game has to buy everyone lunch and beer." Thankfully we didn't lose in the 3 games I played.

A couple days later I went to watch a few preseason games involving the team I've been training with- other than the ticket price ($0.50), everything imaginable presented a money-making opportunity. There were no official concession stands in the stadium, just random vendors walking through the stands. Among things sold: peanuts, sunflower seeds, water, cookies (ours), baked goods, candy. All fairly normal. Then in the span of 30 minutes, I witnessed the true entrepreneurial spirit of the 3rd world: 3 great vendor/hustler experiences.

Vendor # 1: Late in the second half this one guy comes around selling SIM cards, cellphone airtime cards and what I thought were lotto tickets. Turns out he was selling raffle tickets for a "grand prize" which was a used cell phone and charger which I am 99.9% sure were not his. Needless to say, he sold at least 500 1-birr raffle tickets. "Find" a cellphone and sell raffle tickets at the stadium. Genius.

Vendor #2: This kid was probably around 12 and walked around the stands with a scale under his arm. People would stop him, pay him 1birr and he would put the scale down and let them weigh themselves. Simple, effective. Money in the bank.

Vendor(s) # 3: On my way out of the stadium, in a giant open parking lot, I saw a fleet of motorcycles and bicycles. Since my local language and negotiation skills aren't up to par, I had our driver go up and find out how much I could buy a motorcycle for- couldn't be that much, right? He comes back laughing and tells me, the bikes aren't for sale, they're for rent. Not the standard day rental or month rental though. These guys were charging 2 birr per lap around the parking lot like this was an amusement park ride. No license or insurance needed. I started laughing and the guy started dropping his price- 2 birr for 2 laps, 1 birr for 4 laps. Sounds ridiculous but there were plenty of takers and these guys were making decent money.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chicago Land

The picture above is of the newly formed team out of Chicago. These pioneers come from the HESED House located in Aurora.

Their coach, Jason Holmes, is a uniquely motivated you man who started volunteering at the HESED House and never left. After getting his Law Degree he took on the position of Program Director. Jason's own desire to institute micro-programming at the homeless shelter fit the vision behind promoting the spread of street soccer programming. Look at these inspiring two updates Jason wrote about the dedication the players are already putting forth to be a part of the team:

"Hey Lawrence we had our fifth practice/conditioning session this morning…Things are going great and we are getting a lot of interest from people wanting to join the team. I’ve attached a photo of some of the guys from the team after this morning’s 5 am practice! It was 30 degrees out and the guys were up early ready to run! They’re real committed and are showing up consistently"

Here is an earlier message Jason sent:

"We just had our second practice and things are going great! The guys are motivated and determined. I think they are really taking ownership of the team and they seem genuinely connected. Last Wednesday we went on our first conditioning run, 3.5 miles. All the guys finished the run and in good time. A couple of the guys served as motivators for the rest of the team and a few of these guys had never talked with each other before our practices, are now friends. So things are going great!"

Hats are off to these athletes; we look forward to seeing them in DC this summer at the Homeless USA Cup, as well as to posting more updates on their progress here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Story: Tad Christie, USA National Team 2008

In Washington, DC this June at the Homeless USA Cup, Tad Christie from Austin, Texas was selected to the National Team for the 2008 Homeless World Cup. Tad wrote this essay reflecting on his uncertain journey to Washington, his excitement about being chosen for the team and his feelings about attitude. Enjoy!

......It was 3 a.m. when I was awakened by the young lady on duty that morning at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH). “Wake up Tad. You’ve got a plane to catch,” she whispered my wake up call. “Good luck. Make us proud!” she added as she walked away to tend to another wake up call. That’s when it first hit me, just that quick, and as a matter of fact. I was actually part of THE team. I may not have learned everyone’s name, or practiced an hour with the players I would be playing with in the nation’s capitol for the USA Cup, but I knew I was chosen to represent Austin and Texas in a game I wasn’t very familiar with.
I remember starting to ponder, “what if I suck? What if we look like a joke, or embarrass our city and state?” I tried not to show any signs of my reservations as we made our way to the airport, continuously checking to make sure I had all of my required forms of I.D. needed to board the plane to D.C. Not all of our team made it to the ARCH for transport to the airport, but would meet us at the departure gate before time to board. There were 5 of 6 Entourage players in the van. We would need at least four to compete. We would utilize our assistant coach Lesley as an emergency player if needed. Me and one other player would fly out on a later flight than the rest of Austin’s Entourage—without the one player that never would arrive.
Our layover in Atlanta proved to be a test of our patience and homeless street skills as boredom and hunger humbled proud spirits, and empty pockets left a bittersweet feeling about us. We both respectfully remained professional and patient until we caught the last leg to our destination, D.C. Our ride from the airport in Maryland was exactly what I needed to feel welcomed. He stopped to treat us to a smoked dog from a vendor busy on a major street corner just blocks from the brand new pitch in the center of downtown D.C. I was extremely impressed by all the preparations and accommodations made for us. Instantly upon seeing where we would be competing, I was no longer tired from lack of sleep or time change. All I wanted to do was play soccer—street soccer! In that moment I was not homeless, nor was I a victim of my shortcomings that had haunted me for the past 5 years of my homeless, lifeless disappointments. That is when I became happy in “my moment!” I knew that failure was not possible! I would have fun, play hard, and represent Austin, Texas loud and proud and win the love and admiration of the D.C. crowd.
We may be the newest, oldest, lesser of the experienced, and (at times) the most worn out winless team on the pitch, but we kept the most moxie, most improved, and proved to be the most motivated team of definitive sportsmen at the Cup! I was very proud (mostly) of my teammates’ constant regard for “the other man!” Being well represented by Austin Texas’ Entourage gave me some “Tad time” to do a little dance and express sincere appreciation for all of the Street Soccer USA hospitality. And everyone knows we invented hospitality here in the South!
When I was handed the microphone and given everyone’s undivided attention, it was proof then that just because they couldn’t pronounce my name correctly, they appreciated and recognized the real deal and toothless appeal enough to listen to what I feel as I thanked everyone from Mr. Mayor to Mrs. Bayer for serving us our meal! They would correctly pronounce my name. That’s when I knew they heard my word. I never imagined at any time during the USA Cup that I was being considered for the top 8 players selected to represent the U.S. in Melbourne Australia for the World Cup of street soccer in December 2008!
I consider myself a Blessed Man, reassured in hope, happiness, and a healthy life that began when I found Austin, Texas, my coaches, teammates, case managers, friends, and bigger, better opportunities through Street Soccer USA. It’s not always easy to be me, the homeless soccer player, all over the media, but I wouldn’t trade what I’ve gotten or given to or from everyone involved in my new life responsibilities as street soccer world cup player and advocate to the homeless and hopeless men and women everywhere. Leading by example instead of excuses is the only true way to reach souls that may have felt unreachable prior to having known me!
I believe that attitudes are contagious, that kindness kills hatefulness, and a toothless, homeless man can still eat flamin’ hot Cheetos! In the days end, we rest with one real question to answer from the heart, “Are we givers, takers, lovers, or haters? Do we surround our lives with those who are true, or in fallacies and fakers?” D.C. taught me a lot. My favorite lesson is knowing that I can lead by example, and the fact and ability to change that which does not work in my life, and it’s as simple (though not always easy) as street soccer!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

ESPN 2: 9pm Sept 9th 2008

Airing on ESPN 2 at 9pm on Sept 9th, Kicking It, the film about the Homeless World Cup 2006, features US player Craig Holley as well as commentary from and shots of Lawrence Cann, Rob Cann, Ronnie Miller, Dave McGregor, Cyrus Wuor and others from Street Soccer USA. Make sure you watch it and spread the word PLEASE! Here is the film tralier in case you missed it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 features Street Soccer USA and Kicking It, Players Take Tests, Get Documents, Train Hard

Today 3 players from Charlotte took their GED pre-test and 3 more will take the pre-test or pieces of the actual exam tomorrow. One of those player is Craig Holley, featured in the film Kicking It, which MLS featured along with Street Soccer USA as a top story today on their MLSnet official website. Link here to view the article. Or simply visit

In other news, 6 of the 8 national team members are now in possession of their passports. Cornelius Cruz, now 5 months into sobriety, is simply waiting on his to arrive and Densi Diaz is trying to sort out difficult paperwork regarding his passport since he was unaware of his parents or birth record upon arriving in the US from Honduras as a 13 year old. Densi has a valid greencard and we are optimistic for his case.

National team goalie Tim Cummings recently won the division championship with his local team and got his vacation request approved for his travel to Australia. Tad Christie secured a job doing dry wall and is training daily ahead Australia. Diego Vivieros recently secured a job as a doorman and Street Soccer USA is working with HELP USA caseworkers to put in his green card replacement application this week. More news coming soon . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2008

30,791 Views and Counting!!

We have over 30,000 views and 158 people rated the video at an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Thank you Voice of America, and thank you everyone on Youtube who took notice of the homeless!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Announcing the 2008 United States National Homeless World Cup Team!

Players Celebrate

The 8 person roster was chosen on the basis of soccer ability, personal achievements off the pitch, and positive spirit. In the end we wanted the best goodwill ambassadors for the tournament in Melbourne, Australia.

1 Tad Christie, Austin, TX

2.Tim Cummings Charlotte, North Carolina

3.Cornelius Cruz, Santa Rosa, California

4.Densi Diaz, Los Angeles California

5. Johnny Figueroa, Los Angeles, California

6. Loyal Hunter, Minneapolis, MN

7. Diego Vivieros, New York, New York

8. Jeremy Wisham, Atlanta, GA