Monday, December 1, 2008
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 homelessworldcup.org 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!
Posted by Lawrence at 9:19 AM