United Nations Association Film Festival
Screenings will take place:
October 22-31, 2010. Showtimes: TBD
In Cape Town, there are two realities. Sixteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa prepares to
host the FIFA World Cup and the country is ripe with celebration. New hot spots, airports and stadiums were built to welcome travelers from around the world. However, there remains a generation that lives in extreme poverty, with many youth falling into lives of violence, drugs and abuse.
Streetball is a fast paced documentary that tells the stories of South Africa’s 2008 Homeless World Cup team. The Homeless World Cup is an annual soccer tournament that draws teams from over 56 countries—comprised of homeless and the excluded. The SA Squad consists of ex-convicts, former gangsters, orphans and recovering drug addicts that band together to represent their country, proving that no one is beyond redemption. Streetball is a story of hope and of the resilience that dwells within the human spirit. But while these mens’ dreams are simply to have a home and to be recognized as people who need care, often times the realization of those dreams is accompanied by a sobering reality.
Martin Africa grew up in Cape Town and lived on the streets since he was five years old. After spending years in and out of prisons and gangs, Martin found out he had a son and needed to find a way out of a life of drugs and gangsterism. In 2007, he attended trials for South Africa’s Homeless World Cup street soccer team. He was subsequently named captain of the 2008 team.
Thapelo Kalpens grew up as an orphan , living in a youth home. He’s a strong student and wants to attend college but is unsure of how to pay for tuition. He tried out for the Homeless World Cup team in hopes of gaining experiences and connections that would benefit his future. Thapelo made the team and was named vice-captain.
Sandile Mhlongo became an orphan when he was nine years old. He grew up in a children’s shelter but when he turned eighteen, he was sent out to live on his own. With no family or support, he ended up living on the streets. He heard about trials for the Homeless World Cup team and stood out among the competition. Sandile was a top goal scorer for the 2008 Homeless World Cup team.
Petros Nkomo, aka “Rasta,” grew up in Soweto and later moved to Cape Town. He was an orphan at age seven and struggled to find stability for himself on the streets. He spent some time in prison due to petty crimes and while he was there, he played soccer. He became an excellent goal keeper which made him an obvious choice for the 2008 team.
David Abrahams is a community leader, focused on developing youth structures. He founded the Western Cape Street Soccer League in 2006, in preparation for the Homeless World Cup held that year in Cape Town. He has since grown the league into the organization, South African Homeless Street Soccer (SAHSS) and works for the league on a volunteer basis.
Peter Cooksen coached the 2008 Homeless World Cup team. He works full time for organizations in the Atlantis community and volunteered for the South African Homeless Street Soccer League. His coaching provided guidance to the players as they prepared to compete in Australia.
Kgafela oa Magogodi is a Spoken Word Poet and film scholar. He taught at the University of the Witwatersrand and was also a guest lecturer at New York University. He has performed worldwide and was the first recipient of the Steve Biko Fellowship. His work explores the social roles and media representation of Black intellectuals, as well as the significance of maintaining cultural practices to uphold a vibrant civil society.
Streetball was funded by South African PBO (Public Benefit Organization) and United States 501(c)3 public charity From Us With Love (FUWL). With little to no experience in the film industry, but a passion to share the triumphs and tragedies of the 2008/2009 South African Homeless World Cup Teams, Streetball began production in July of 2008.
FUWL asked filmmaker, Demetrius Wren to join them in South Africa in February of 2008 to photograph and make short documentary videos of their ongoing projects. While spending time with the South African Homeless Street Soccer League, President, David Abrahams suggested that Wren make a full length documentary film about street soccer. Wren shared Abrahams request with FUWL Founder, Michael Smith and Smith agreed. Within a few weeks, FUWL approved funding for Streetball.
Streetball was made by a crew of only two. Demetrius Wren and Christina Ghubril shot, wrote, interviewed, directed, edited, photographed, sound mixed, researched, graphic designed, and composed the elements that make up the film under the direction of Executive Producer, Michael Smith, who also founded FUWL in April of 2007.
Thanks to modern technology, two 25 year olds with a lot of passion could complete a film in their living room. Streetball was edited, sound designed and graphic designed on a Mac, using all Mac programs.
FUWL’s strong relationships with organizations involved with the street soccer league, gave Wren and Ghubril full access to the staff and players. Wren and Ghubril would often leave the cameras behind and spend time getting to know the players and the Cape Town community. The friendships that formed made it comfortable to hold conversational interviews and hang out at ease while a camera was around
Without a full crew or imposing equipment, Wren and Ghubril gained access into places and stories that are not often open to “outsiders” or media. Also, without Martin Africa, much of Streetball would not exist. He took Wren and Ghubril into locations that housed local gangs and to where many street people lived. Once, Ghubril watched a man twirl a gun at them while filming in the Quarry but he put it down when he saw Martin with the crew. On Long Street, Martin was told by some kids that if he wasn’t with the crew, they would’ve stolen the cameras.
Ghubril wanted to highlight South African musicians and artists in the film, to give context to the vibrant post-apartheid culture and generation. Wren was inspired by the “Take-Away Videos” — one-shot music videos of bands performing live in their community locations. The two combined their ideas and brought South African musicians into the fabric of the film.
While finishing her undergrad in Johannesburg, Ghubril met Wandile Molebetsi of UjU, and would frequent UjU’s concerts each week. Kgafela oa Magogodi was her professor at NYU and at the University of the Witwatersrand. On her spring break in Cape Town, Ghubril visited the District 6 museum where she was moved by Faith47’s artwork. Jitsvinger, the Rudimentals and ETC Crew, were found on myspace. They all generously donated their time, music and artwork to From Us With Love for Streetball. All proceeds from the film and soundtrack will go to fund From Us With Love’s ongoing projects to bring about hope in South Africa.
“South Africa has more than 1,000 children that are being orphaned daily with a current estimate of 1 million children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. This will increase to approximately 2 million by 2010 and in Africa, to over 40 million.” (ABB South Africa)
From Us With Love (FUWL) became aware of street soccer and the Homeless World Cup, an international event for the sport, during the summer of 2007 in South Africa. They learned that entrance can’t be gained into the lives of people who live on the streets as easily with knowledge and wisdom as with a soccer ball. FUWL wanted to share the excitement of the sport and the triumphs and tragedies of those who play it. From Us With Love proudly presents Streetball, a documentary film following the 2008/2009 South African Homeless World Cup teams.
FUWL is a registered 501 c3 Public Charity in the United States and a registered Public Benefit Organization (PBO) in South Africa. FUWL works closely with other organizations that serve the needs of impoverished South Africans in order to provide the most effective aid possible.
One of the projects FUWL sponsors is South Africa’s Homeless World Cup street soccer league. FUWL believed the stories of the players in the league were significant and believed that sharing them through a documentary is a powerful way to spread the word about homelessness and the plight of many South African youth.
FUWL recognizes the basic worth of every person – that we are all more alike than we are different, and that we all deserve care and support. FUWL operates out of the belief that we are part of a very interconnected world, and improving viability for communities anywhere strengthens human viability everywhere. Also, by focusing on improving education, health services, good nutrition, cultural arts, sports and voluntourism opportunities, FUWL invests in a brighter future for humanity.
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.
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
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.
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.
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
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….
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
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!!!
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
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.
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.
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.
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!
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
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.
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
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.
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.
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…
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
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.
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.
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!
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
The 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Demetrius 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.