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!