Sunday, February 8, 2009

The text below comes from Rob Cann who leads Street Soccer 945 out of the Urban Ministry Center, the nations first soccer program for the homeless. In it's fifth year, SS945 has expanded to two years and going strong. Rob also co-coached the national team last year. Hoover, whose poem is featured below, is at the center of the team shot above surrounded by his teammates.

Home Field Advantage

The harsh realities of winter are here in Charlotte with the first cold front of the new year setting firmly in earlier this week. Weather forecasts predicted that overnight lows on Thursday night would be in the teens and the Urban Ministry Center prepared to activate its cold weather policy. The temperature indeed dropped as expected Thursday afternoon and the line for Room in the Inn, a program where local churches host our homeless neighbors each night of the winter season, began to grow and grow. Sleeping on the sidewalk outside the center gates was not an option for even the roughest of sleepers.

As I looked out the window from my office and saw the mass of people lined up outside braving the weather and hoping to get a bed with Room in the Inn, I couldn’t help but be astonished as I heard chanting in the office next to me and turned to see 13 anxious soccer players tucking their jerseys in and beginning to loosen up for a critical pair of outdoor league matches at 8pm and 9pm. The weather was the last thing on their mind and as Hoover flowed out the lines to the new song he wrote,

Its cold outside and I have nowhere to run to
Gotta make a fire in the woods and pray it don’t burn you
As a young kid I did things I wont supposed to
Wrong turn here and there, I made a wrong move

Its cold outside and I have nowhere to run to
Gotta make a fire in the woods and pray it don’t burn you

I sadly felt confident that tonight we had home field advantage because our team is all too familiar with being outside during this time of year. Everyone who said they were going to be there tonight was present and the three week layoff from games over the holiday had us hungry for action.

Tonights team was a mix of old and new faces and since we had been rained out the week before and the holiday and new field construction postponed our games before that we knew going into the game that positioning and communication were going to be the keys.
The game marked the return of Osman Mohammed, a 40 year old Sudanese native that since helping Street Soccer 945 build our Art Park court in 2007, spent much of 2008 in Alabama defending his right to stay in America even though his work permit was out of date. He has been granted legal status here and is waiting on his paperwork to come through in the mail and is meanwhile staying in the Charlotte Emergency Winter Shelter. Also to with tonights team was Pablo, a member of Street Soccer 945 at this years Street Soccer USA Cup. Pablo has been working steadily until he separated his shoulder on the job. He has filed for workman compensation, but is nervous that now he is healthy that he won’t be able to get his position back due to the slowing down of construction work in the city. The last person to note that was with us tonight is Kimtoya Moore. Kim has just aged out of foster care and is on the street. She met 2005 World Cup Team Member and now assistant art director Ray-Ray and he encouraged her to play with the team while she sorted out what she was going to do next. She said that Ray gave her the friendship and positive encouragement that she needed to come out of her shell and play with the team and to seek the help she needs to get into housing and back into school. These types of relationships formed are what being on a team is about and proves importance of the mentorship role that graduates of the program can play in engaging new players. Another job well done by Ray. The rest of the team was rounded out with volunteer coach Curtis, Kerry, Capone, Devin, Jihad, Elmer, Toney, Ray, Hoover, volunteer Chris Goodnight, Homeless World Cup keeper Tim Cummins, and coach Rob.

The first game was tight and a lapse at the end of the first half where we lost positioning led us to giving up 3 goals and be down 3 scores to 1. We were able to get one back when coach Rob inserted himself in the game, but minutes later a 4th goals was conceded on a defensive lapse that left Curtis and Tim to defend 4 of our opponents. Elmer Nunez was the star of game one slicing through opponents and setting up Toney Kelley on several opportunities that just missed. A determined Elmer would not be denied as he deposited 2 late goals to give SS-945 a well earned tie.

The coaches reinforced communication and tighter passing as keys to game number 2, but before we could get any further the second game was being whistled to start. We had an army of substitutions and everyone was still eager to play. The team came out much sharper in the second came spreading the field and Osman playing in the middle of the park was a key in the first half, playing one and two touch, receiving passes from the backs and spreading the ball wide to our forwards Toney and Elmer. We took an early 2 goal lead and kept our defensive integrity with Tim being vocal for everyone to mark up and calling out names and numbers. Simple quick passes continued to be our method, and then the flood gates opened as Toney, who initially like Elmer was taking his defenders on one-on-one, slotted a pass to a wide open Elmer who smashed our 4th goal into the back of the net. We walked off in joy to a 7-5 victory after conceding two late goals as new players got more game time experience in the waning moments.

Street Soccer 945 is now sitting in a tie for 4th place in our league of 11 teams.

A big thanks to Brixx Pizza for supporting our players with food after all our games. You guys are awesome!

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