Thursday, January 31, 2008

Winter Seasons End

(Santonio Williams recieved shot instruction from teammate Dwayne Gourzong in practice this week.)

1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, . . .

So the score-line went until the score was 7-6. After World Cup veteran Elmer Nunez smacked the post with a chance that would have put the street soccer stars up 7-6. It was his third post of the evening. A counter attack to the same play left our heros trailing for the 7th time. Undaunted, the street soccer stars came back for the 7th consecutive time. This time on the very last play of the game. Elmer again was involved. He saw the older coach Cann calling for a service and put up a perfectly lofted ball from the midway line. Coach Cann fought off an elbow in the back by the opposing goalie and rose above three players to head the ball down and onto goal. Smack. Again, agonizingly, the 7th comeback was denied by the post. Cann scrapped for his own rebound, and muscled the ball back into the net as the buzzer sounded, but the referee called him for playing the ball on the ground ( a no-no in the indoor league). Never mind that he was literally tumbled on by the opposing team and forced to the ground.

In this manner, street soccer lost their semifinal match, and thus their dream of a first ever championship was denied. The team protested the final call, but knew that they had the chances to win the game earlier. The team left proud and talking about next season.

The street soccer 945 squad also ended it's season losing a hard fought game against the league's top seeded team. A physical battle tested the squad's composure, but did not break it. New comer David debuted and Capone returned to action after injury. Tony Kelly is to be commended for his improved attitude, hustle, and ability to score goals when we need them this season. Dwayne Gourzong and Tim Cummings tied for most games played this season as both played double duty on tuesday and wednesday nights. A highlight this week was Dwayne taking a leadership role in practice, actually running a shooting drill, teaching new-comers to the game how to strike a powerful shot.

All in all, progress on the field was matched by progress off. On the ride back after the game Capone verbalized what the team is all about, "You know, I really have changed a lot since I got involved with you all. I mean, I am being productive with my time and I am focused on doing good things. I am not going to lie to you, Lawrence, I used hustle, I sold drugs, but I that's not who I am." Since joining the team Capone has gotten employment at a Toys R Us Warehouse and reunited with his sister. He now works with her and pays rent in a small house they rent together with his older brother.

News from Michigan

Sara Silvennoinen founded and coaches Ann Arbor's street soccer team. Her note on her team and one player, as well as other info, is published below. We are so impressed with Sara, her team, and her organzition. Enjoy her post:

Jon Wallace:

Profile of an Washtenaw County Street Soccer Player

2007 was both a year of hardship and tragedy as well as a year of hope and new beginnings for Jon Wallace. The 46-year-old divorced, unemployed, homeless man who had struggled with homelessness and Alcohol Abuse since his divorce about 15 years ago was sleeping on the streets, drinking regularly, and doing “nothing” with his life. One autumn night, while sleeping at his campsite, another homeless man suddenly attacked Jon and slammed his head into his full backpack several times, causing multiple head wounds including a broken nose, laceration of the ear, and tore hair from his head. Jon attempted to press charges but when he went to court, he was escorted out and told by security officers that he was “drunk” and therefore could not be in the courthouse. Jon stated he had not been drinking, but was so discouraged by the experience that he never pursued the assault charge.

In August 2007, Sara Silvennoinen, LLPC/CAAC of the Washtenaw County PORT (Project Outreach Team) program, organized and initiated a local soccer team for the homeless in Washtenaw County. She decided to call the team “The SSPORT,“ for “The Street Soccer PORT” Team. The PORT program is a unique initiative funded to, as the name implies, outreach to mentally ill homeless individuals in the community, engage with them, and provide treatment, and/or connect them with other appropriate services. As an outreach program, PORT staff also regularly has contact with the homeless population at large, regardless of a mental illness diagnosis. The invitation to take part in the SSPORT Team and begin practices in August, 2007 was extended to the entire local homeless population.

Jon just happened to be at the park where the soccer practices were being held one day, and with a little encouragement from Sara, decided to give it a try. He began attending practices regularly, and soon was learning to play goalie for the team. He has been the most consistent team member and has exhibited his commitment to mastering the position of goal keeper so that he can represent SSPORT and participate in the Homeless World Cup in Washington D.C. next spring. Several PORT and local shelter staff have noticed a marked change in Jon since he began playing with SSPORT. Unsolicited remarks made by staff have been that his mood and affect have been brighter, he has been more social, he has noticeably decreased his drinking, and he has been a voluntary PR representative for the team by encouraging others to join and support SSPORT.

Additionally, he is now living in an apartment with a friend for whom he has been appointed as payee, has followed up with medical treatment as encouraged by his SSPORT coach, has become more motivated to look for employment, has voiced a desire to learn to type, and is always the jokester at practices, making his teammates and coaches laugh. Jon’s love for the game was especially visible when he and several other teammates attended a Detroit Ignition (professional indoor soccer team) game in November 2007. Tickets had been donated by community members so that SSPORT players could attend. Jon was rapt in the goalies’ every move on the field and he learned some new skills he could apply to his game during practices. He has also taken it upon himself to go the library to learn more about goaltending.

Jon’s own perception of how Street Soccer has impacted him are that it “gives me something to look forward to”, “I’m loving the hell out of playing soccer!”, and “without soccer life would be depressing.” He is a valued member of the SSPORT Team and his coaches are very proud of the progress he has made both on and off the field. We look forward to bringing him and his teammates to D.C. to meet and learn from other Street Soccer players from around the country and also to have the opportunity to put their skills to the court in a real soccer competition.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Colin Farrell Supports HWC around the world

Colin Farrel discusses his soccer background (Colin's father was capped for Ireland and Colin was youth player until 15), soccer in the USA, and the HWC with our own Lawrence Cann at the Sundance Festival.

Colin, of course, besides being a talented and famous actor, is the narrator of "Kicking It." Kat Byle's interview with Colin for the HWC can be linked to here

The film's website is

Director Susan Koch, editor Jeff Warner, director of photography Neil Barrett, and composer Charlie Barnett deserve top praise. The film, which ESPN bought, played to loud applause and packed theaters in Park City. Like the sport of soccer does, this film to an amazing degree, humanizes the homeless in an honest and beautiful way.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Greetings From Sundance

View this trailer of the film. The US portion focuses on Craig Holley, the amazingly courageous young man who has come through our program. He works at Mert's Heart and Soul Restaurant in Uptown, Charlotte and lives in his own apartment with a coworker now. Soccer continues to be a sustaining force in Craig's life. He says, "Soccer is my therapy." He will be in uniform next week when the Street Soccer Stars enter the playoffs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Denmark Veteran Daniel Martinez pictured above.

Daniel Martinez' smile came in through the window first, so that he seemed to follow it in through the door. But that is Daniel these days. He just finished his first semester at the community college. You look at Daniel and you feel like you are looking through your first pair of prescription sunglasses, he in sharper focus than anything you have seen before. He got a raise and is working night shift now, which excludes him from our league games. He gets his soccer on the weekend, coaching latino kids in Rock Hill, about 25 minutes South of Charlotte. Daniel will attend a coaching clinic to begin to get his coaching liscence this spring at the same time that coach Rob will go to get a more advanced liscence. Our hope is that one day Daniel could even coach the US street soccer team at a Homeless World Cup. In the meantime it will be a good way for him to earn extra money.

The Street Soccer Stars finished their regular season tonight in one of the top four spots, meaning they achieved their goal of making the play-offs. With this finish, they have finished higher than any other Street Soccer team in any competition. In contrast to the victory last week, the Stars did not make the other team unravel. Our Colombian opponents maintained their focus. It was the Stars who slipped out of their passing game and into a bit of long ball. A needless foul at the top of the box by Mike McGregor let to a quick start goal. A poorly set wall led to another. A third goal near the end was a result off not getting back goal-sides, something the team has improved on tremendously this winter. Those slip-ups made the difference in the game. We had our chances, but couldn't quite get a finish. We settled for complicated passes when the simple would have sufficed. The greatest thing of all is that we can point to a handful of slip ups and pinpoint our weaknesses. In all the years of working with street soccer teams, we have never had so few problems to address. As coaches in the past we rarely ever got past the basic fundamentals. While bad habits change slowly, we must give credit to the team despite its 5-3 loss. Another positive is that our solid opponents have taught us what we need to work on ahead of the playoffs.

We might add that few of the other team's players got up at 4am and walked to the bus stop in 20 degree weather like our goalie Tim. Most people weren't hunting down immigration papers and stressing about the status of their greencard like Dwayne. The McGregors, God bless them, are staring eviction in the face since it was their mother's name on the lease and now she failed to return from Panama. Dave was almost frantic talking with Rob yesterday on the way to pracitce, "I don't want to be homeless again, I got to get a job, I got to get education."

Stay tuned for more. Tomorrow night the 945 squad is in action. Next week is a rest before the playoffs the following week.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


["Good thinking, coach!" The team has showed great progress on the field this season. Coach Rob pictured above.]

The Street Soccer Stars beat an all Jamaican team by the score of 8-4 last night. After going down we drew level within three minutes, then extended our lead at half-time to 4-3. We missed two easy chances that would have put us comfortably ahead and gave up two goals at the end that we didn't need to. We had played a great first half, finding our target men in the middle and switching the field two even three times to find an opening each possession. We said composure would make the difference in the second half. If we could play our game and not get frantic, we would win. Our composure was tested early. We dropped two goals and the lead, but again we leveled quickly. When we answered again to pull ahead 6-4, it was our opponents who lost their cool. As they fought themselves we added another goal and yet another and maintained possession of the ball most of the half. We could have easily added more to the lead as we missed two open goals and hit the post in the final minutes. We were proud of our maturity on the field today.

Dave and Michael known for their flashes of brilliance gave solid, consistent performances. Off the field their saga continues. Over-stressed to the point of a breakdown, their mother returned to Panama before Christmas after hearing of the death of relative. Not only did the price of the ticket use up her share of the rent, but they received notice the day before Christmas that she would not be returning. Just a couple weeks earlier they seemed more stable than ever. Now, their mother is gone and Dave and Michael are looking for more work to make ends meet. Street Soccer remains the most consistent thing in their life and I marvel not only at their dedication, but their improvement on the field. Here we see the benefit of dividing into two teams paying dividends for the more skilled players and the lesser skilled players, each getting the chance to develop at their own level.

We missed big D-bone and Craig who were both at practice during the day but missed the game, D-bone do to transportation issues and Craig because he was working. Practice featured three new recruits potentially debuting next week for the 945 squad. D-bone also had his long awaited immigration attorney appointment today. Fighting an addiction is a difficult thing and leads to criminalization that makes getting work and renewing your green card difficult. All admiration goes out to D who was straightforward and brave as the attorney explained the worst case scenarios to him. We will hope for the best case. D, by the way is a Jamaican national who came to the US at 13. He is now 31. Many thanks to the Anne Crowdy, sole attorney at the International House which takes on cases pro bono for the homeless.

A lot of credit goes to Jorge and Tim, our sweeper and goalie who had to be strong all day against the long ball game of our opponents.

In this our penultimate game of the regular season, we have put our selves in a good position to finish in the top 3. Mathematically we have a chance at first. Currently we sit third. We have beaten one of the two teams ahead of us and if it were not for our own mistakes against a team we should have beaten early in the competition we would be sitting in a tie for first.

If you are in town come cheer us on in our final regular season game next tuesday.