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Welcome Home

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Patricia de Lille and Lance Greyling with team

The players returned home to South Africa this week.  While there were some bumps along the way, they are now all home, safe and sound.  Soon after they landed, they were invited to Parliament and were recognized by Patricia de Lille, the leader of the Independent Democrats political party.  Also, they were welcomed by Kgalema Motlanthe who served as President of South Africa between  September 25, 2008 and May 9, 2009, completing the second term of Thabo Mbeki. He currently serves as Deputy President of South Africa and of the African National Congress.

These leaders spoke of how proud they were of the team for representing South Africa in Milan and for bringing home the Milan Cup, which Martin Afrika presented to Deputy President Motlanthe while at Parliament.

Kgalema Motlanthe with the team

Kgalema Motlanthe with the team

Interviews for local news media

Interviews for local news media

Taryn Aveley, FUWL regional coordinator with 2009 team captain, "Mabuthi"

Taryn Aveley, FUWL regional coordinator with 2009 team captain, "Mabuthi"

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


SA Won!!!

Winners of the Milan Cup!

Winners of the Milan Cup!

South Africa is officially the winner of the 2009 Milan Cup!  This is the third division trophy and is a great victory for SA.  They played a fantastic final game against Malawi.  The crowds were chanting for South Africa, waving their flag–some of their friends from other teams even wore SA’s warm up suits in support of South Africa.  They played a focused and solid game and won 9-1.  It was a day to celebrate in Milan, completed by the first place Homeless World Cup victory, won by the Ukraine team.

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As the players head back to South Africa, the weight of unknown futures is heavy in the air.  Some go home to organizations or family members yet others head back unsure of what will come next.  The return from this amazing event is often challenging.  In a world and economy that is difficult for all, these men are no exception.  With trophy in hand and a deeper sense of self, they return to their home country to seek new opportunities for their futures.

I am daily overwhelmed and inspired by their resilient and hopeful spirits.  As we head back to the States, their presence will surely be missed.

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Milan-Cape Town (9)

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Winning Streak

South Africa has come back with a force!  Winning today against the USA and Romania, South Africa is going on to compete for the third division cup, playing against Malawi!  Tomorrow’s a big day….

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Day 7 HWC Milan (9)

Day 7 HWC Milan (3)

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Lewis Hamilton, San Siro and Germany

Posing with Louis Hamilton, Formula 1 racer

Posing with Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 racer

The last few days have been quite eventful including a visit from British Formula 1 racer, Lewis Hamilton, an excursion to San Siro Stadium and a day at the pool.  Asanda was injured and after a visit to the emergency room, realized he won’t be able to play for the rest of the tournament.

Today the players entered the field ready to enjoy themselves against Germany and took the game! At one point, the team was left with only 2 players on the field when Martin was taken out of the game.  Also, the goal keeper was pulled out for negative behavior and Ephraim was put in as a substitute.  With Asanda injured, Martin out, and an unpracticed goal keeper, they managed to focus in and score enough to win in the end!  Colin and Thulisile scored a series of impressive goals and Ephraim and Rushaad defended well against their opponent.  Tomorrow they play Romania to compete for one of the lower level trophies.

South Africa vs. Ghana

South Africa vs. Ghana

Asanda is injured and must sit out the rest of the tournament

Asanda is injured and must sit out the rest of the tournament

Ephraim taking over as goal keeper, helping to win the game against Germany

Ephraim taking over as goal keeper, helping to win the game against Germany

Louis Hamilton visits the Homeless World Cup

Lewis Hamilton visits the Homeless World Cup

Colin and Cheslyn at San Siro Stadium

Colin and Cheslyn at San Siro Stadium

Martin at San Siro Stadium, home of AC Milan

Martin at San Siro Stadium, home of AC Milan

A break at the pool

A break at the pool

Posing with the Homeless World Cup

Posing with the Homeless World Cup

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Match Update!

Due to the outcome of several other team’s games yesterday, the South African team is still in the running for the first place Homeless World Cup trophy! Check back soon to see how they place!!!

–Christina Ghubril

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Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Day 4: Milan

Rushaad

Rushaad

Today was a challenging day on the field. Both the games against Kazakhstan and Hungary were lost. Kazakhstan doesn’t qualify to compete in the tournament so that game counts automatically as a win. However, the game against Hungary was a tough one. The teams were neck and neck up until the end. Both played a very strong game and the final score was 9-8 in favor of Hungary.

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The team was a bit bummed and bruised (Martin got knocked pretty hard in the face…) but even despite their losses, they quickly worked to support and encourage each other. We went out for gelato and their smiles and laughs had returned. Similar to last year, I believe this moment of loss was the moment where the significance of the Homeless World Cup was realized. Experiencing new things, realizing their value in the world and gaining inspiration and hope for their futures have become more significant than taking home the cup to South Africa.

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The team also visited the South African Consulate in Milan and met Dr. Nomvuyo Nokwi, the Console Generale. She shared her story of migration from South Africa and encouraged the players to pursue opportunities for their futures.

Dr. Nokwe and Team

Dr. Nokwe and Team

We then spoke to Thapelo, last year’s team captain who helped coach this year’s team. He remembers experiencing these feelings of loss and encourages the team to keep their heads up and fully enjoy the rest of their time in Milan.

And….they’re still in high ranking for the second division tournament. Tomorrow they play Ghana and continue on to the second round semi-finals. Wish ‘em luck!

Gavin, SA's manager, enjoying gelato

Gavin, SA's manager, enjoying gelato

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Day 3: Life Worth Living

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The South African team showed up this morning ready to play hard. After losing their first match yesterday, they need to win 3 matches in order to remain in the running for the cup. They were neck and neck with Wales during their first game but ultimately won 6-4.  They went on to win their next game with Japan by a whopping 17 to 1. They’re ready tomorrow to play Kazakhstan and Hungary, hopefully to move on to the semi-finals.

Afterwards, Martin shared that their success on the pitch is important in revealing the team’s worth to their homeland. While they are forgotten on the streets, if South Africa would recognize all they have to offer, their country would be a better place. Drugs, he explained, are enticing on the streets because they offer a boost of confidence and a rush of adrenaline but playing and winning a game offers a buzz that’s even greater than drugs. If people on the streets were given opportunities like this more often, he thinks no one would turn to drugs and then confidently stated that he will never turn to drugs again. For one of the first times, Martin said he believed his life was worth something.

These are the stories we are honored to witness and look forward to sharing fully with the release of Streetball in 2010.  Martin is a daily example of the power of hope.  It has been amazing watching his and his teammates’ stories unfold.

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Martin

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Cheslin and Colin

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Ephraim

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Colin

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Day 2: South Africa vs. Nigeria

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Rushaad

Team Japan

Team Japan

The opening parade is a huge event at the Homeless World Cup. Today, flags of 49 countries were carried by their teams as they marched through town, singing, chanting and kicking off the tournament. It was an epic journey into a colosseum-esque stadium, where the 2009 games are taking place.

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Team Luxembourg

Nigeria

Team Nigeria

Team SA

Team SA

South Africa’s first match was against Nigeria–historically a tough team to play. Two years ago, South Africa lost 10-6 to Nigeria and last year lost 9-1. This year, SA proved to be a tougher challenge to the Nigerians. Almost no goals were scored in the first half. The teams were neck and neck until the very end when South Africa lost a shoot out, the final score being 4-3, in favor of Nigeria.

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A little bummed at first, the team quickly encouraged each other to lift their spirits and recognize that they played a good, strong game. They understood their moments of weakness and are ready to play as a cohesive team, remembering that ultimately, playing football is what they do for pleasure and they need to have fun as they play in order to succeed. They also stated  that regardless of the outcome, this is still an experience of a lifetime–but they’re ready to focus in tomorrow and play to win…

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Siphiwo aka "Mabuthi"

Thulisile

Thulisile

Rushaad, saving the ball

Rushaad, saving the ball

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Day 1, 2009 Homeless World Cup

Team SA excited to see Demetrius

Team SA excited to see Demetrius

Bongiorno!

The first day in Milan was fantastic.  We started at a press conference with Mel Young, the founder of the Homeless World Cup.  It was held in the middle of town, across from the famed Duomo–a beautiful, historic neighborhood.

Duomo

Duomo

The team arrived safe and sound and bursting with energy!  Everyone is excited to be here–perhaps no one more than Martin Afrika.  He officially made it to Milan and is beyond ecstatic to be here, representing his country.  The players are all good friends and connect well, referring to each other as brothers.

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Martin Afrika, excited with his team

All 49 teams and 500 players met last night for the official match draw.  The room was buzzing with team chants, dances and posing for photos.  The players from all teams are rooming together, so they’ve begun to build friendships already and enjoyed celebrating together.  South Africa will play their first game against Nigeria–a strong team.  Wish them luck!

Team SA

Team SA

Mel Young, founder of Homeless World Cup

Mel Young, founder of Homeless World Cup

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


To Milan for the 2009 Homeless World Cup!

I am so excited to say that it is time for the 2009 Homeless World Cup!  The South African team is preparing to travel next week and to represent their country in Milan, Italy.

It is bound to be another inspiring tournament, held in a bustling city, buzzing with the energies of players from all over the globe.  One of the most exciting things for us this year is that Martin Afrika has gotten his ID and will soon travel to Milan to live out this part of his dream.  We go to gather final footage of Martin with his team in Italy and then will hurry back to the US to insert the footage into the first cut of the film that will be sent off to the Sundance Film Festival.

It’s an exciting season all around.  Stay tuned for regular updates on the team and their journeys at this year’s Homeless World Cup!

Martin Afrika with teammates

Martin Afrika with teammates

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Trials for the 2009 Homeless World Cup Team

2009-trials-1121The 2009 trials for the upcoming Homeless World Cup are now complete.  At a camp outside of Cape Town, roughly 25 guys from Cape Town and Knysna came together to compete for the 8 slots in the 2009 team. This year, the Homeless World Cup will take place in Milan, Italy in September.

Physical training began early in the morning and then trial matches began mid-afternoon. Along the beach, it was a picturesque event with Table Mountain also towering in the distance!

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So far, it looks like Martin Afrika will be on the 2009 team.  It remains uncertain whether or not he will be able to obtain legal identification papers allowing him to apply for his passport.  His spirits seemed high at the trials and we are all hoping that everything will line up for him this year.

As far as filming goes, our time here in South Africa is almost complete.  A few more days before returning to New York will give us our final footage from this leg of the journey and we look forward to piecing together all the amazing elements of this story to complete the film.  It promises to be an exciting season ahead for South African Homeless Street Soccer as well as for StreetBall, the film.  Stay tuned—many more exciting stories to come!

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Jitsvinger, Fruit Stands and Sandile

Fruit Crates in Stellenbosh

Fruit Crates in Stellenbosh

As our days in South Africa hint of ending soon, we are trying to capture all the missing pieces of this story.  Find all the voices that still need to be heard, get all the shots that are needed for a solid film.  It’s been a great few days for gathering some of the final elements of this project.

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Yesterday we left early to meet with Jitsvinger (translation: The Dope One), a Cape Town based hip hop artist who has gained international acclaim for his music.  Jits keeps all of his lyrics in his native tongue, Afrikaans.  Told that he needed to rap in English if he ever wanted to make it past his own community, he took it as a challenge to prove everyone wrong and be the first internationally recognized Afrikaans MC.  He has agreed to be one of the artists that appears in the film, adding to the texture and cultural landscape of this story on South Africa’s 2008 Homeless World Cup team.

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Jitsvinger

Also important to Jits is being a positive role model in his community.  After spending the day with Jits on his cousin’s fruit selling route, we followed him to his performance at the District 6 Museum, for a Freedom Day celebration (Freedom Day remembers South Africa’s first non-racial, democratic elections in 1994).  Along the fruit route, we learned about different communities and about the fruit selling industry from the folks who sell the “third-tier” fruit.  The “first-tier” is packaged and sent overseas to Europe, “second-tier” is packaged and sent to local grocery stores and “third-tier” fruit is gathered by local vendors and taken into the townships to sell to the community stands and shops there.  The people who sell this fruit take pride in their work and in the knowledge that they are bringing healthy food into their communities and that they are able to provide for their families without resorting to theft, drug dealing or other desperate means.

jitz-and-sandile-19jitz-and-sandile-15In between fruit stands and concerts we stopped by the University of Cape Town to interview Dr. Cathy Ward, graduate professor of Psychology.  Dr. Ward’s research is focused on issues of substance abuse and violence in local communities, particularly the ways in which it affects the lives of local youth.  She was a wealth of knowledge and insight and her input in the film is greatly appreciated.

Today we visited the trials for the 2009 Homeless World Cup.  Sandile was there, helping to coach the incoming players.  We caught up and shot an interview with him, hearing how life has been since he got back from Australia.  Full of ups and downs, he says.  It has been a mixed journey for Sandile but he is keeping his head up and his goals set.  I hold a great deal of hope for his story.

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Cape Town

In the last few days we’ve had many adventures.  On Wednesday, we started the morning early with a helicopter flight over Khayalitcha.  We were able to get the ride with the doors off of the helicopter so that our footage wouldn’t be hindered at all by windows, etc.  It was incredibly exciting and we got some great aerial footage for the film of where some of the players grew up.

We caught up with Peter Cooksen, the coach of the 2008 Homeless World Cup team.  He took us around to organizations in his community around Atlantis and to visit and interview Vuyo, who he is still closely tied to.  Vuyo is doing well in school, is in good spirits and just got back from a soccer tournament in Johannesburg where his team won first place!

We then visited Riaan at The Ark.  He is also doing well.  Back in school and working towards entering college, he is hopeful and energetic, still playing ball and is encouraged about taking control of his life and his future.  He shared some of his new tricks for us!

As always, it’s a wonderful journey.

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Riaan

Peter Cooksen

Peter Cooksen

Khyalitcha

Khyalitcha

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Khyalitcha

Cape Town

Cape Town

2010 World Cup Stadium

2010 World Cup Stadium


Trials for the Keeper

Goalie Trials

Goalie Trials

Yesterday was another significant day here in Cape Town.  South African Homeless Street Soccer held their trials for a keeper for the 2009 Homeless World Cup team.  All of the players who are in the finals were there playing against each other and Thapelo, Rasta and the coaches surrounded the courts offering guidance and support. I wasn’t here for last year’s trials and it was impressive to me, seeing the players try out, knowing how much stronger and sharper they will become in the next few months.

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Martin Afrika was there and it was wonderful to see him again.  He is physically strong and sharp and clearly a leader on the court.  He looks like he has lost a bit of weight and has some sadness in him where there used to be pure adrenaline and excitement.  He got kicked out of MyLife, he says for bringing his girlfriend over, and spent a few weeks back on the street and had everything he owned stolen from him.  The depression of his circumstances led him back to drugs, none of which he was happy about.  Since he is trying out for the 2009

team, he is back living at MyLife but doesn’t feel like he is as loved or accepted by his community as he once did.  Due to his appearance and tattoos he has gathered that there are people who do not want to be seen with him, since he looks like a gangster.  He has had troubles with some of his old relationships following him, particularly when he leaves his current community and, for example, goes to visit his son.  He was chased by a rival gang the last time he dropped his son off and was scared for his life.  I admire more than ever his heart and resolve to try and stay positive and hopeful and work towards health in his life. I know it has not been easy.

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Also, he is still working to get his ID.  He can’t get a job without it and there continues to be hurdle after hurdle for him.  Most recently, he has been told that his finger prints look like someone from Madagascar and so he is trying now to deal with it from this angle.  He says if it weren’t for football he would be back on the streets and have given up.  Football keeps him going.  It is the one thing every day that he enjoys and is inspired by and can fight for.

Rasta was also there.  Rasta has had a very different experience than Martin and still lives at MyLife, feeling positive about his life.  He gets odd jobs from time to time and is in training to be a coach.  He is in good spirits and claims that the Homeless World Cup changed his life completely.  His face is all smiles and we have heard from the other coaches and from Thapelo that Rasta is doing a great job coaching the incoming goalies.  He takes his job seriously and seems to take great pleasure in it.

Rasta

Rasta

Rasta also spoke of his concerns for Sandile, in particular, who is no longer living at MyLife, apparently for having his girlfriend over, as well.  It sounds like Sandile is living back at the quarry, but he is harder to find these days.  The coaches are also bringing him on to help lead the 2009 team and are hoping that will encourage him and offer a deeper sense of purpose again.

I knew this wouldn’t be an easy “and they all lived happily ever after” story but it is still hard to see people that we have grown to love struggling after a season that was so full of hope.  I am thankful that there is a good mix of guys who have  found encouragement in the last few months to run alongside of those who are having a bit of a difficult time.  They still think of each other as brothers, as a team, and work as best as they can to support and lift each other up , which is a beautiful thing to see.  I am still quite hopeful for all of them.  I know these things take time.

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Catching Up With Thapelo

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Today was a great day starting with an early rise and ending with an evening in Stellenbosch, sharing dinner with some friends.  It was lovely.  In between we spent the hours of the day with Thapelo, captain of the 2008 Homeless World Cup team.  It was so wonderful to catch up with him again and to spend some time together in Cape Town.

The day began in his new home.  He’s staying at a place in Woodstock now so he can be closer to the city and to the tutoring he’s getting at the University of Cape Town.  An incredibly smart and driven student, he didn’t get as good of scores as he hoped in his final math and science exams due to all his practicing for the Homeless World Cup. He is now spending this year with a tutor, preparing to retake the tests and get the scores he wants in order to ultimately begin studying at a university and pursue a degree in the engineering field.

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Thapelo's New Home

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The Study Corner

After visiting his home, we interviewed him in the park in his neighborhood.  There was a sports team practicing there and none of us knew exactly who they were but eventually Thapelo realized they were a team from Wits University and their captain was former Bafana Bafana football here, Eric Tinkler.  Mr. Tinkler was very gracious as Thapelo introduced himself as the captain of last year’s Homeless World Cup team and Thapelo took his picture with one of his heroes, which was really exciting!

Afterwards, Thapelo, Demetrius and I hopped a cable car to the top of Table Mountain for some beautiful shots on the top of this South African icon.  Thapelo told us about the coming of age ritual he will soon go through.  It is the Xhosa tradition for him to officially become a man and leave his boyhood behind.  There was something picturesque about him explaining leaving his childhood and beginning his new life with all of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean to be seen in the distance behind him, open to him.

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We are gearing up for tomorrow, the trials for the 2009 keeper (or goalie) for South Africa’s Homeless World Cup team.  Rumor has it, most of the guys from last year’s team will be there, Martin will be playing for his place on the 2009 team and the community will be rallying behind all of these guys.  Rasta, Sandile and Thapelo are offering their guidance as peer leaders/coaches.  I think it should be a pretty fantastic day.

Thapelo with Eric Tinkler

Thapelo with Eric Tinkler


Back in Cape Town

dsc_0012_2Demetrius and I are back in South Africa. It all happened in a whirlwind sort of fashion, and now here I am, sitting under the beautiful Cape Town sun ready to share about our last few days.

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It’s been a little over three months and we’re back to catch up with the players from the 2008 Homeless World Cup team as well as fill in some of the holes in the story of our documentary film. It’s always an adventure! Many exciting things have happened in the last few months. The film was officially titled “Street Ball,” which we are pleased about, and is in process of being edited from over 100 hours of footage into a 120 minute doc. Thapelo has moved into an apartment and started taking classes at the University of Cape Town, Riaan has started back at school and is doing very well, Martin is in the final round of trials for the 2009 Homeless World Cup team and Rasta, Sandile and Thapelo are helping to coach the 2009 team!

We recently met with the leaders of what was formerly the Western Cape Street Soccer League. They have spent the last few months developing what is now South African Homeless Street Soccer or SAHSS. Seeking to work around the year both with the members of the Homeless World Cup teams as well as to use street soccer as a preventative measure to keep kids off of the streets, SAHSS’s goal is to grow beyond the borders of Cape Town and partner with organizations around the country who use street football as a means to build relationships and life skills with street people. Ultimately, the aim is to have a team for the Homeless World Cup that represents the many communities in South Africa.

After meeting with SAHSS, we interviewed Cornelia Finch, the Manager of Social Development for the city of Cape Town. She works closely with SAHSS and was linked to the Western Cape Street Soccer League, as well. She joined the team for the 2008 Homeless World Cup in Australia to offer support to the players. It was great to have her input on how street soccer is a meaningful tool to reach street people here in South Africa and why it is a worthy cause to fund.

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Yesterday, Gavin and Ricardo, two men who work with SAHSS toured us around several neighborhoods in Cape Town that we had not previously visited and introduced us to many community leaders and organizations working with street people.  Gavin took us to an overlook in Khayalitcha and Ricardo showed us around Elsies River where we met local shop owners, activists, folks who work for the ANC’s office there as well as the woman and son duo who run Tehilla, a home for former street people.

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Gavin

Ricardo

Ricardo

With only a few days left in Cape Town, we are planning to pack in meetings with local News offices, professors, players, and coaches as well as gather some updated footage of locations, team trials, and iconic sites we have yet to capture on film. More videos with local artists are also on the agenda and then we’ll head to Knysna and Johannesburg to gather footage and stories there. All in the next two and a half weeks!


Last day of the Homeless World Cup

Sandile with South Africa's award

Sandile with South Africa's award

The last day of the Homeless World Cup was a great day.  Our boys played the home team, Australia, for their final placement game and won by whopping 9-1.  Everyone’s spirits were high and it was a great way to end the tournament for South Africa.

Afterwards, Demetrius and I went with the guys to the zoo and we all enjoyed seeing kangaroos, lizards and snakes, lions and giraffe and just had fun spending time together.  There was an easy playfulness in some of the guys who felt the weight of the tournament was now lifted. However, the flight home that now loomed closer and closer was heavy on several of the players’ shoulders.  While in Australia, they were celebrities.  They were surrounded by great community and support, resources and opportunities.  The energy was constantly buzzing and vibrant, full of hope and possibility.  While many of the guys are returning to ideas of hope, change and growth for themselves, a few of them have big battles ahead of them that will make their dreams hard to realize.  Not at all impossible, but hard.

Ethan, Riaan, Vuyo and Thapelo with fans

Ethan, Riaan, Vuyo and Thapelo with fans

Thapelo petting a baby kangaroo

Thapelo petting a baby kangaroo

Thapelo, Sandile, Riaan and Ethan as filmmakers

Thapelo, Sandile, Riaan and Ethan as filmmakers

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Super Ethan

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After the zoo, we all headed back to watch the final games for the men’s and women’s Cup.  They were both great games.  First, the women battled it out and Zambia beat Liberia 7-1, taking home the first place victory.  Then, the mens teams from Afghanistan and Russia played a vigorous game and, in the end, Afghanistan won the victory for their country with a close final score of 5-4.  It was a great celebration for all of the teams.  The games began with the national anthems playing from each country that was represented in the tournament.  The stadium and entire block surrounding it was packed with supporters from Melbourne and around the world.  It was a special day.

Afterwards, we grabbed the guys and went out to an Ethiopian restaurant to celebrate our experiences together.  It was great fun dancing and sharing a meal together, watching the guys’ reactions to this foreign food and the local women.  We then went back to the university where there was a final party for all of the players, outside of the player’s lounge.  A local DJ hosted the event and the lot was filled with dancing, hugging, some tearful farewells and a lot of lovers sneaking away for their final moments together before heading home.

DJ Sandile

DJ Sandile

DJ Thapelo

DJ Thapelo

Riaan, Vuyo, Sicelo, Sandile, Thapelo, Ethan

Riaan, Vuyo, Sicelo, Sandile, Thapelo, Ethan in Downtown Melbourne

Overall, it has been an absolutely beautiful experience that has deeply impacted our guys.  While hanging out over the last few nights, I had some great conversations with each of our guys and all of them feel like their eyes have been opened to new things and possibilities for their lives.  They are a bit scared to go home and be challenged in realizing the goals that they now have or to feel stuck within their communities.  But they all have a different laser-like focus about them, concerning their futures, that they did not have in the same way before.  If I ever was unsure about the value of the Homeless World Cup, I know I have seen first hand the way this experience changes lives.  I surely hope to continue to be involved with it, and with our team, in the future.


South Africa vs. Poland, Ghana, the Netherlands and Hungary

Playing at Yarra Pitch

Playing at Yarra Pitch

It’s been a few days of ups and downs for South Africa but thankfully, the team ended today on a high note!  A bit about our journeys:

School girls supporting South Africa

Brighton Primary School

Brighton Primary School

Sandile in the School

Sandile in the School

Ethan greeting school kids

Ethan greeting school kids

Riaan signing autographs

Riaan signing autographs

Yesterday morning, one of the local elementary schools had invited the South African team to come and visit their classes for a celebration of the team and time for the students to interview and mingle with the players in order to learn more about their lives, country and sport.  I spoke to some of the guys on the drive to the school and they were open about their concerns.  Many people here have greeted them with ignorance, wanting to buy them things in assuming ways or thinking that they are unable to take care of themselves in one way or another.  There have also been some awkward moments with people condescendingly telling the team that they somehow sponsored the event and thus the boys.  I think these moments come out of fine intentions, most likely, but come also from ignorance and end up insulting the players who are highly competant, intelligent and driven individuals.

However, when we left the school, the guys said that they felt welcomed by the students and were touched that the school was so interested in them, wanting to hear their stories and get their autographs.  There were some mixed feelings, as well, as the team discussed the fact that they never have been–and do not think they will be–welcomed and praised in even a small school in their home country.  I think it is really great that the students and the team were able to share this exchange.

Sicelo vs. Poland

Sicelo vs. Poland

Vuyo vs. Ghana

Vuyo vs. Ghana

Ghana celebrating

Ghana celebrating

Sicelo vs. Ghana

Sicelo vs. Ghana

After the school visit, we all headed back to Federation Square.  In order to place for the semi-finals, South Africa played against Poland and Ghana, two incredibly solid teams.  The guys had expressed their concerns before the game about the fact that they were tired and struggling to pick their momentum up after the morning’s events.  Once the game began, Poland was able to get a few solid shots in and create enough stability for themselves that South Africa couldn’t catch up.  Poland won the game 8-1.

In the game against Ghana, South Africa showed up with their game faces on.  Neither team was able to score for almost the entire first half, each side playing tough defense.  Most of the game was played neck and neck between the two teams and again, in the end of the game, Ghana was able to pull through with a few solid shots and claim the lead with a final score of 10-6.  Our guys were a bit bummed but ultimately knew that they had played incredibly tough teams and that, particularly against Ghana, had put up a good fight and could be proud about that (Ghana is now up against Russia for the Cup).  We all spent the evening, again, hanging out together in the player’s lounge with many of the athletes from other teams.

This morning Demetrius and I got up early to get some shots of Melbourne and the surrounding areas.  We got some beautiful shots of the ocean as well as downtown Melbourne before heading to the games.

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Today, the guys played the Netherlands and just barely lost in the final moments with a score of 4-3.  This knocked them out of the running for the cup and they were pretty upset afterwards.  There were some conflicts between the teammates concerning whose fault the losses have been and such and Thapelo, the captain, was down and concerned.  They had a bit of a break before their final game against Hungary, however, and they came back energized and strong.  They won 7-5 and are now waiting for the results of the rest of the teams to know how they place for tomorrow.  I was glad to see them happy again, at the end of the day.  We’re all looking forward to the next few days exploring Australia together!

Vuyo

Vuyo

Thapelo

Thapelo

Coach and Riaan
Coach and Riaan
Sicelo and South African fan

Sicelo and South African fan


South Africa vs. Australia, Nigeria and Scotland

Getting ready for round one

Getting ready for round one

 

Rasta in action

Rasta in action

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, so all of my competive-big-sister-used-to-think-I’d-be-the-first-woman-in-the-NBA sides are coming out.  Exploding out, really.  I’m all about street soccer.  Our boys are doing incredibly well–they were practically a new team today.  They arrived on the court this morning ready to play a tough game against Australia, who had a serious home team advantage. The crowds were full of Australians and Australia fans and South Africa wasn’t playing around.  They were using their teammates well, playing a clean game with a lot of slick passes and scores and won 7-3.  It was a great victory.  I was “that girl” screaming from the sidelines with all of the neutral journalists.   I gotta support!

Thapelo vs. Australia

Thapelo vs. Australia

Vuyo vs. Australia

Vuyo vs. Australia

Australian player

Australian player

Australia and South Africa celebrating together
Australia and South Africa celebrating together

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Our second game today was a lot harder.  Nigeria is a tough team with a solid reputation.  For almost the entire first half, neither team could score.  Both sides played serious defense and have fantastic goal keepers.  Nigeria scored the first point followed quickly by South Africa and so the rest of the game went.  Eventually, Nigeria got a two point lead and the rest of the game was spent catching up a point, losing a point and, in the last seconds of the game, Nigeria scored again.  South Africa lost with a final score of 10-7 in favor of Nigeria.  They put in an incredible fight, however, and can hold their heads high knowing they fought a very good team well.

Nigeria in action

Nigeria in action

Nigeria's  Goal Keeper

Nigeria's goal keeper

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Scotland’s team are the reigning champs from last year.  All of the teams we played against today are powerhouses.  Again, South Africa put in a good fight but the guys spoke about how tired they were by the end of the day and that they didn’t feel good about their final game.  We lost 9-4, in the end.  Also, Scotland’s team has several more players than South Africa’s team.  Especially without Martin, South Africa has only six guys to rotate with and Rasta has to play keeper non stop.  He was particularly exhausted by the end of the day.  Again, he did an excellent job all day but felt that by the third match, his stamina was down.

Coach

Coach

Rasta after a long day

Rasta after a long day

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Sicelo after a serious game

Sicelo after a serious game

Vuyo at the end of the day

Vuyo at the end of the day

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We all grabbed dinner together at a local burger joint and it was great to see the guys relaxing and having a good time.  The shared some pretty funny stories of things they’ve experienced over the last few days, their perspectives of women from different countries, and also were honest that they’ve had a hard time building relationships with players from certain African nations due to the xenophobia and violence that went on in South Africa last year.  The team feels that the players from Zimbabwe and Malawi, in particular, do not trust them and are not as open to becoming friends as some of the other teams are.  Yet it sounds like they’ve had some good conversations with players from other countries, particularly Brazil, swapping stories of what life is like in their respective homes, what the landscapes are like, as well as what gang life is like in various communities.  I think it has been an eye opening experience for them, overall.

School boys playing outside the arena

School boys playing outside the arena

Australian school children

Australian school children in crowd

Girls braiding local's hair

Braiding a local's hair

Girl braiding volunteer's hair

Girl braiding volunteer's hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian's outside the arena

Australian's outside the arena

 

 

Australian musician on the street

Australian musician on the street

 

 

 

 

 

Yarra River

Yarra River

 

 

 

 

Aussie's who began singing American spirituals with our team!

Aussie locals who sang American spirituals with the South African team in a restaurant

 

 

Australia

Australia

 

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Tomorrow is another round of games marking which teams will make it into the finals.  Wish our guys luck!


South Africa vs. Greece, Germany and Kenya

Thapelo

Thapelo

Player from Kenya

Player from Kenya

Whew!  It was another intense day of street soccer.  South Africa played three matches today: against Greece, Germany and Kenya.  They started off the day with a four point lead against Greece but in the second half, Greece caught up and tied South Africa, winning the game in another shoot off.  Similarly, South Africa and Germany ended their game in a tie and this time, South Africa took the shoot off, once again.  In their final game against Kenya, they lost by two points.  They played a hard game and due to the tough defense on both sides, not many points were scored by either team, but ultimately, Kenya’s precision and focus helped them to win the final match of the day.

The great thing was that after the game, both teams hugged each other warmly, congratulated each other and met up behind the field for photos of both the South African and Kenyan teams, together with their coaches.  They chanted together in support of Africa and our guys were very positive about the game, believing they played hard and are still in the running to make it to the finals if they play right tomorrow.

Almost injured Rasta

Almost injured Rasta

Tonight there is a bar-b-que for all of the teams to come together and celebrate over traditional Australian food and recreation.  Everyone’s looking forward to some time to hang and enjoy the international company of fellow players.  Hopefully, the team will get a good night’s rest tonight before another full day tomorrow.  I’m tired from just watching them play all day…


South Africa vs. Chile

Melbourne

Melbourne

South Africa played their first game today against Chile.  It was a tough match–an intense game for Rasta, the goalie, in particular.  He did an excellent job blocking many solid shots.  It was the best I have seen him play to date.  About a week before we left, he had injured one of his thumbs, so I think was playing it cool in practices to maintain his hand for the actual tournament.  Rasta is fierce on the field!

South Africa had taken the lead in the first half but ended the game tied.  In street soccer, when teams end with even scores, each team picks two players to participate in a shoot out.  When it comes to winning in this situation, much of the pressure is on the keeper/goalie.  Each team takes a turn with one of their chosen players trying to score a goal.  Essentially, whoever misses first loses.  It was a high intensity game with quite a few rounds going back and forth during the shoot out but eventually, South Africa won!  There were South African supporters in the crowd who now live in Australia and were so excited for the team.  It was great to see the guys celebrated after the game.

Rasta getting pumped

Rasta getting pumped

Ethan scoring

Ethan scoring

After the first match, we spoke to Thapelo, the team’s captain.  He was not entirely pleased with the way his team played, although they were able to win the game in the end.  He believed they needed to be more focused and precise and work better together as a team.  Also, he said that it was a difficult game because the turf they are playing on here feels very different to what they are used to back home and so running and controlling the ball was more of a challenge.

Sandile and Thapelo

Sandile and Thapelo

Sandile in Action

Sandile in Action

South Africa will be playing three games tomorrow against Germany, Kenya and Greece.  Hopefully they will rest up tonight and show up refreshed, focused and energized for such a big day.

The coaches

The coaches

Celebrations: Sandile, Vuyo and

Celebrations: Sandile, Vuyo and Ethan

Rasta getting some love post win

Rasta getting some love post win

South Africans in crowd

South Africans in crowd

Ethan

Ethan

Riaan

Riaan


First days of the 2008 Homeless World Cup

Thapelo in Opening Parade

Thapelo in Opening Parade

Sicelo in Melbourne

Sicelo in Melbourne

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We have now been in Australia for two days.  As traveling usually is, it has been quite a whirlwind of events.  There were several near missed flights with our crew running through international airports, Sandile spent a night alone in Johannesburg due to a flight mix-up, the second crew had trouble leaving the country and so missed their flight from Hong Kong to Australia and ultimately canceled the first day’s games.  However, everyone is now safely in Melbourne and so far, having a magnificent time.

Players from India

Players from India

Player during opening festivities

Player during opening festivities

The opening ceremony was a special event.  Local musicians and indigenous Australian dancers performed for all of the teams.  Mel Young, the creator of the Homeless World Cup, spoke to the crowd, encouraging each player on their journey.  The event ended with a drumming crew playing through the hall and many of the players from around the world dancing together on the stage at Melbourne University, where the event is being held.

I was moved nearly to tears several times during the ceremony.  There are 56 countries from all over the world represented at this year’s event.  It is a beautiful sight to see flags, country colors, jerseys and hundreds of excited faces from so many places and cultures.  Multiply that by the scenarios these athletes have lived through and the hope that is inherent in their presence here, at an international competition, and I was more inspired than I have been even by the Olympics.  There are some absolutely phenomenal individuals at this event and the city is buzzing from it all.

Portugal

Portugal

Namibia women's team

Namibia women

The Netherlands

The Netherlands

New Zealand

New Zealand

Melbourne has done what seems to me to be a fantastic job of organizing for the Homeless World Cup.  Over 900 volunteers are coordinating all of the games, the crowds, the set up, etc.  Local schools have assigned different teams to their various classes and so each team has a solid fan base and is being chased by kids who want the players’ autographs and arrive enthusiastically, country flags painted on their cheeks in each team’s colors.

Supporter of Ethiopia

Supporter of Ethiopia

East Timor

East Timor

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The games began yesterday and every team showed up ready to fight.  These preliminary rounds are the placement games.  Because no one is allowed to play in the HWC more than one time, each year it is unknown which teams will be the strongest.  Last year, Scotland won first place.  From the matches I saw yesterday, many were close calls between equally solid teams.  There were a few significant wins, however.  In particular, the team from England is tough.  They scored goal after goal and all of their players showed up with incredible strength and ferocity.  From the sidelines with my camera, I thought I might lose my head a couple of times.   Also, the women’s team from Kyrgyzstan did very well.  Their team looks young and potentially passive but their skill and footwork was impressive and they won a solid victory against Australia, as well.

England (in White) Vs. Sweden

England (in White) Vs. Sweden

Players from England's team

Players from England

Street soccer is a bit different than field soccer. Each team has 3 players on the court and one keeper/goalie.  One player must be on their side of the court playing defense at all times. The court is much smaller and the games are 15 minutes each, played in two halves.  The walls of the court are used to bounce the ball off of and pass it to other players so to win, one must be ready for a lot of fast running and brave handling of a ball that is being shot with great power around the court.

Thapelo signing autographs

Thapelo signing autographs

South Africa supporter

South Africa supporter

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Our guys play their first game at 4:40 today.  They are more than fired up and excited to get out there and play.  They will be playing Chile, in this round.  Tomorrow, they are up against Greece.  Send up some good thoughts for South Africa!


Australia Bound

South Africa's 2008 Homeless World Cup Team

Today was a full and beautiful day.  While most of our home country celebrated Thanksgiving, Demetrius and I awoke with the sun to meet up with the Homeless World Cup team for their send off ceremony.  We all gathered beforehand and the guys were given their uniforms and warm up suits, shoes, toiletries and duffel bags for the trip.  It was a fun time with a lot of energy in the air.  Many of the guys said they couldn’t sleep last night, they were so excited about the journeys ahead.  We took some team photos then headed to City Hall.

Sandile, Vuyo, Ethan and Riaan

Riaan, Ethan, Vuyo and Sandile

Riaan and team

Riaan and team

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Riaan, Ethan, Vuyo and Sandile

Martin, Rasta, Ceselo and

Thapelo, Sicelo, Rasta and Martin

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The Deputy Mayor gave a short speech and affirmed the team in their abilities to represent South Africa positively while in Australia.  Fifty-six countries will be represented at this year’s Homeless World Cup and the team is carrying the baton of not only representing themselves as individuals, or even as a team, but as a country.

Deputy Mayor of Cape Town

Deputy Mayor of Cape Town

Mayor greeting team

Mayor greeting team

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Martin stuck by the team all day.  He has passed his title of captain to Thapelo, who he believes is a strong player and role model for the rest of the team.  I know this part of the experience is very painful.  I believe Martin will come back strong next year, ID papers in hand, ready to lead the 2009 team to victory.  All of us deeply hope so.

Thapelo, the new team captain

This evening, we joined David Abrahams at a going away party that Ethan’s family was throwing for him before he leaves for Australia.  It was wonderful to see how much support Ethan has and to see what a symbol of hope he is for his family.  We met his siblings and parents, godmother, girlfriend, cousins and friends.  I felt blessed to be included in such an intimate gathering and thought, in lieu of Thanksgiving with my family, sharing fried chicken and samoosas with a beautiful family near Cape Town was just about perfect.

Ethan's friends and family

Ethan's friends and family

Ethan's step-father and siblings

Ethan's family

Ethan's baby brother

Ethan's baby brother

Ethan's mother and brother

Ethan's mother and brother

Ethan and his friends

Ethan and his friends

Ethan and his girlfriend

Ethan and his girlfriend

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Tomorrow, we hop on a flight to Hong Kong, ultimately to end up in Australia.  I’m interested to see how these brimming with energy athletes hold up while stuck on a 16 hour flight.  As always, many journeys ahead!!!

ddd

Rasta, Riaan, Sandile, Sicelo, Demetrius, Thapelo

Riaan, Sandile, Rasta, Ceselo, Christina, Thapelo

Riaan, Sandile, Rasta, Sicelo, Christina, Thapelo


Last Days in Cape Town

View of Table Mountain from Robben Island

View of Table Mountain from Robben Island

A Cafe in Cape Town

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It’s hard to believe this part of our journey is almost complete.  In two days, Demetrius and I will join South Africa’s 2008 Homeless World Cup team on a flight to Melbourne, Australia, for the long awaited international competetion.  The air around us is full of energy, excitement and also some fears.  We are all dreaming of Melbourne, looking her up on the net, talking about what she could be like.  It’s almost time to find out.

Knowing we only have a few days left in Cape Town has kept Demetrius and I fairly busy.  Over the last few days we spent time with a local graffitti writer and artist, Faith47, learning more about her processes and voice in the community.  We visited The Oasis, another organization that uses street soccer to reach local youth–particulary at risk individuals–and builds relationships through the game in order to then mentor and assist the players throughout their life development.  We spent a morning with another community leader who also uses street soccer to reach homeless guys and interviewed several members of his team about their experiences, first hand, working with these guys.

The stories are the same:  street soccer is the cheapest and most effective way to reach street kids.  All you need is a ball and the kids will come.  Once the kids have gotten to know the leaders a bit, they will begin to open up.  Once they know they are loved, many of them no longer want to use drugs or live on the streets.  I know it sounds much simpler than it is but the bottom line story we are hearing from all sides is that these guys need to know they are loved and need to be heard in order to begin on a healthier path.  Street soccer is a way to begin to build relationships as well as to offer a physical outlet, goals the players can work towards and reasons why they are needed, as well.  The team needs each other.  The younger players need the older ones to act as big brothers/mentors.  Once they are hooked into a community, their leaders can help them find other opportunities for work, creative outlets, education, sometimes counseling.  But it all begins with the game.

Boys in Happy Valley

Boys in Happy Valley

Fruit Stand in Happy Valley

Fruit Stand in Happy Valley

During several interviews, we were also taken on a tour of some of the townships in Cape Town that are less “famous” than Khayalitcha.  They don’t end up on the news so much or in people’s debates and conversations but the stories there are just as real and challenging.  There are no schools whatsoever in Happy Valley and so the children have to ride sometimes two hours and/or walk long distances to get to school in neighboring townships.  We were there on a Monday afternoon and there were kids of all ages, everywhere, not in school.  We also visited a newer settlement that was a squatter’s town but has grown to be a full community.  Theyhave organized their own local leaders who are internally recognized.  There are 2 outside pumps for water access and several outhouses and that is this community’s main access to water and toilets.  There are no schools, but there is a recently opened creche for the babies.  Many people who live here were once homeless but have come together and made a community for themselves, have homes and some level of stability and protection here.

Water Pump

Water Pump

In the afternoon, we went to Robben Island for a tour of the prison Nelson Mandela lived in for 18 years (he spent a total of 27 years in prison, but 18 of them were on Robben Island).  It is a very stark place.  Now, a historical site and tourist attraction.  Many of the tour guides were once prisoners there, themselves.  I am blown away by the courage it would take to be back there, guiding tourists through your old cell every day.  Most of the prisoners on Robben Island were political prisoners who were against apartheid and arrested and tortured for fighting for their freedom.  Many of them were very young men who were torn away from their families and loved ones, tortured and discrimated against and shipped off to an island off the coast of Cape Town.  It was a prison for Colored and Black men only.  There were separate facilities around the country for women and white men.   There is something both haunting and hopeful about seeing a gift shop on a former such prison.  I do not really know how to process it.

Nelson Mandela's Former Cell

Nelson Mandela's former cell

Outside of the Prison

Outside of the Prison

Off the shores of Robben Island

Off the shores of Robben Island

We have one more interview today and spend tomorrow with the team and gathering last bits of footage before packing up and leaving for Australia.  There are many stories ahead of us still, I know. May the journeys continue!