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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.

Milan-Cape Town (3)

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.

Milan-Cape Town (22)

Milan-Cape Town (23)

Milan-Cape Town (16)

Milan-Cape Town (7)

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….

Day 7 HWC Milan (6)

Day 7 HWC Milan (9)

Day 7 HWC Milan (3)

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

parade hwc 2009 (12)

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.

Day 4 HWC Milan (4)

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.

Day 4 HWC Milan

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

Day 3 HWC Milan (26)
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.

Day 3 HWC Milan (34)

Martin

Day 3 HWC Milan (37)

Cheslin and Colin

Day 3 HWC Milan (39)

Ephraim

Day 3 HWC Milan (27)

Colin

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


Day 2: South Africa vs. Nigeria

parade hwc 2009 (20)

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.

parade hwc 2009 (15)

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.

Day 3 HWC Milan (2)

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…

Day 3 HWC Milan (13)

Siphiwo aka "Mabuthi"

Thulisile

Thulisile

Rushaad, saving the ball

Rushaad, saving the ball

Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril


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

Super Ethan

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!