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.