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Posts Tagged ‘Demetrius Wren’

SYNOPSIS

The story of Streetball, a documentary on South Africa’s 2008 – 2009 Homeless World Cup Teams

street art by Faith47

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.


THE CAST

Meet the soccer players of South Africa’s 2008 Homeless World Cup team and their leaders in the Cape Town community.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

cropped images1David 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.
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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.
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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.


THE ARTISTS

Streetball features the work of significant up and coming–as well as established–musicians and street artists from South Africa.  Each artist donated their poetry, music and images to the film and to From Us With Love, giving Streetball a vibrant backdrop in telling the stories of South Africa’s post-apartheid generation.

Araminta de Clermont

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Photo by Araminta de Clermont

Araminta de Clermont is a British born photographer who is now based out of Cape Town. Her work explores “rites of passage, and the visual currencies of group identification and formation.” Before Life her second solo show, follows Life After, which was exhibited at Joao Ferreira Gallery, and at ArtSpace, Berlin. Her work features in the  UNISA collection, in The Trustman collection,  and has been showcased throughout the US and Europe as well as in South Africa.

ETC Crew

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ETC CREW is the “Cape Town-based, multi-racial, cross-dimensional Hip Hop rap outfit you might’ve already heard of.”  Fueled by their own fresh yet energetic, jazzy, head-nodding Hip Hop sound, they are on a mission to fill a cultural and musical gap in the South African music industry. Not content to be followers in the game, they would rather do it differently, making changes on their own terms, armed with the kind of quality beats that speak to your feet and a highly comedic lyrical flow that is completely contagious. ETC Crew is here to re-adjust any kind of attitude that says Hip Hop and rap are strictly for gang bangers.

Faith47

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Image by Faith47

Faith47 is a Cape Town based graffiti artist and has been adorning the streets of South Africa for over fifteen years.  Her work explores the divisions that still exist within South Africa’s communities and seeks to draw attention to the places and people that are often over looked.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries across Europe, North and South America as well as throughout Africa.

Jitsvinger

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Jitsvinger (Quintin Goliath) is one of South Africa’s fastest rising Afrikaans vernacular Hip Hop artists.  He plays acoustic and electric guitar and successfully launched his debut album, Skeletsleutel, in 2006. He has traveled the country and world, performing at various outdoor and indoor festivals, theaters, clubs, living rooms and even cordoned off streets.

In 2005, Jitsvinger was invited to facilitate a creative writing program at Robben Island.  He has performed with poet and author Antjie Krog, and poets Kgafela oa Magododi and Comrade Fatso. He traveled and collaborated with Khoisan praise poet, Jethro Louw, performing traditional cultural music in the Taiwanese cities of Tainan and Taipei. In mid-2008, he traveled to Switzerland as part of the inter-continental Rogue State of Mind project where he performed and recorded with fellow artists from Switzerland and South Africa.  Jitsvinger has been working on his follow-up album due for release in 2009.

Kgafela

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Kgafela oa Magogodi is a Spoken Word Poet, Spoken Word Theater director and film scholar. He has taught at the University of the Witwatersrand School of the Arts as a lecturer in African Cinema, Oral Performance and Rap/Dub Poetry Studies and has also been a guest lecturer at New York University.  He directs and produces original Spoken Word Theater and his productions have included “Itchy City,” “Warsoil,” “Bread,” and “Blood.”

Kgafela has written several screenplays and produced his feature length film, I Mic What I Like, in 2006.  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.

Rudimentals

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photo by matty.co.za

The Rudimentals are an eight-piece ska/reggae band that have been described as a “South African Institution.” The band released its first CD, “More Fire,” in October, 2003 and the hit song “Noh TV” won a National Bronze Stone award for best music video. In 2004, the band was voted “Best Reggae and Ska Band” in South Africa, by nationally popular Blunt Magazine.

In 2006, the band released their second CD entitled, “Set It Proper.” The CD fuses Ska, Reggae, Dub, Dancehall, Rock, African Mbaquanga and Jazz into what is now known as Afro-Ska. Sponsors include Cape Audio College, Township Guitars, Moskow Clothing and Critik Shoes.  In 2007, the Band was signed for their first CD, “More Fire”, with Moonskaworld UK.

UjU

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Gwen Ansell of Business Day claimed, “(UjU’s) compositions are memorable and the playing rather better than it needs to be. Whatever this new kind of popular music ends up being called, UjU does it exceedingly well.”

Today’s incarnation of the band was crystallized at a twelve-hour jam session in early March, 2004. Led by spiritual leader of the band, Ntuthu Ndlovu (poet and vocals), UjU has a sound that is distinctly their own, mixing strong Mbaqanga rhythms with modern Jazz and Hip Hop.  UjU – Zulu for Honey – writes with a heightened consciousness, informed by critical social, economic and political issues.  They aim to bring about the entirely new and distinctly South African sound that represents their generation.  As they say, “Nothing cheesy here but always self-referential and ironic.”


THE CREW

The production team for Streetball is a cross-cultural, cross-continental crew that hail from Canada, South Africa and the United States. Meet the director and the producers and learn a bit more about their stories that lead to the making of Streetball.

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Michael Smith, Producer/Story

Executive Director, From Us With Love

Michael Smith was born in Johannesburg and spent the first years of his life in the Old Houghton community.  The ‘60s and ‘70s were turbulent times in South Africa and thus his American-born parents ultimately moved his family out of South Africa while he was still young.

Michael began his phone book business and found great success.   Always politically minded, when Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of New Orleans, he felt if he didn’t take action, he would lose the right to continue discussing and critiquing cultural issues concerning social change.  He and his brother then organized donations from their neighbors and packed up a truck of supplies to drive down to New Orleans.

These experiences proved to be significant and led Michael to begin the organization, From Us With Love (FUWL).  While in New Orleans, he observed that there were many local organizations that had great passion for their work as well as understood the needs in their community.  What they lacked, however, was adequate funding and access to the resources and information that were available around them.  From Us With Love wanted to fill in these gaps.

This took Michael back to the place of his birth.  FUWL began work in the townships of the Western Cape and joined forces with nursery schools and orphanages, providing specifically what these organizations shared they needed, rather than beginning a new organization all together.  This not only met the unique needs of these communities but it also provided a formula to achieve significant developments with minimal administrative needs.

One of the projects closest to Michael’s heart was the work of the street soccer program in Cape Town.  Alongside of his then-photographer, Demetrius Wren, he got to know the stories of the players in the league and believed they were of significance and should be shared with a broader audience.  Having grown up drawn to the arts, Michael has found his involvement in Streetball a rewarding experience and looks forward to future creative endeavors.

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Demetrius Wren, Director, Co-Producer

Demetrius Wren began his artistic training at an early age after enrolling in the Davidson Fine Arts School in Augusta, Georgia. Davidson provided eight years of study in music, dance, drama and video.  While in high school, Demetrius worked and volunteered for the Jewish Community Center in his hometown, working predominantly with special needs students. He has taught saxophone lessons and tutored at local schools in Augusta.

Following Augusta, Demetrius completed a dual studies degree in classical music and motion picture production at Florida State University before moving to New York. While in New York, he served as an assistant writer to Steven Sater for the Tony Award winning musical, “Spring Awakening.”  He spent several months working closely with Robert Wilson at the Watermill Center and has written and directed his original play, “Legends, Myths and Hieroglyphs,” which will soon be turned into a feature film.
His original work centers around the stories of children and youth and, in particular, highlights the stories of often overlooked young people. He taught workshops at the Florida State University Graduate Acting Conservatory in Acting for the Camera for first and second year grad students. Film highlights include the short film Of My God, charitable work for Nolashines.org and From Us With Love, as well as other music videos and art films.

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Christina Ghubril, Writer, Co-Producer

Christina Ghubril began theater training when she was seven and while in high school, started to devise and direct original pieces of work.  She went on to receive her BFA in Drama and Pan African Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.  At Wits, she studied Arts and Culture in Post-Apartheid South Africa. While at NYU, she studied at the Collaborative Arts Project of the 21st Century, the Experimental Theatre Wing and at Stonestreet Film and Television Studios.

Christina grew up on the Northside of Pittsburgh, in a family committed to urban community development. She has volunteered in her community through home repair, tutoring, arts education programs and supplemental education programs, beginning these experiences while in kindergarten.  As she developed as an artist, she began to focus her work around using the arts and storytelling to empower young people to develop their voices and to understand the significance in their own unique stories.  She has worked predominantly in communities that struggle with issues of poverty and violence.

In 2007, she directed Still Speaking, an original, multi-media, devised theater piece on Pittsburgh’s Northside community. She also worked with New York’s Opening Act, teaching and directing devised theater to students in underserved Brooklyn high schools.  She has taught performance and writing workshops to middle and high school students throughout the country and assisted in the development of teen-girl programming at Girl Scouts of the USA.  She has performed professionally in film, television, music videos and in live theater.

MMastroBio

Mike Mastrocinque, Associate Producer

Operations Manager, From Us With Love

Mike Mastrocinque became Operations Manager for From Us With Love in June of 2007.  Prior to beginning his career with From Us With love, Mike visited South Africa on two occasions as a tourist developing a deep love for the beauty, culture and people of South Africa.  Mike’s curiosity of the Townships that are scattered across the country could not be contained and he requested that his guide take him for a tour one afternoon.  The tour guide suggested visiting a pre-school and stopping along the way to purchase sweets for the children.  “Spending time with the children at the pre-school and the people of that community prepared my heart for the position I am in, which came several months later.”

In the early Summer of 2007, From Us With Love Founder, Michael Smith, asked Mike if he would consider traveling to South Africa to build relationships with organizations helping to bring change to the country.  Mike accepted and From Us With Love began to model Compassionate Humanitarianism to children and families living in South Africa through Education, Health Services, Nutrition, Sport and Cultural Arts.

TarynAveleyBIO

Taryn Aveley, Associate Producer

Regional Coordinator, From Us With Love

Taryn Aveley grew up in Cape Town.  She is married with two children and now resides in Knysna in the Western Cape Province.  From a young age, Taryn knew that she had a purpose.  In 1994–when she was fourteen years old–she was involved in a Church massacre while South Africa was going through political changes.  At that moment, Taryn realized there was a reason for her to be in the world and so shifted her goals to center around serving others.  For Taryn, one of the biggest lessons learned in her life is to have compassion and will.

Taryn started working for FUWL in 2007.  Within the last two years, she has identified various needs in the Knysna community and obtained assistance for those who struggle to support themselves.  For Taryn, working for FUWL has shown her that there is always a way to help change someone’s life, no matter how big or small one’s impact may seem. Through the various projects she has been involved in, she has learned that there are some challenges that we all face that we cannot face on our own.  Representing FUWL has been a fulfilling and rewarding opportunity for her.

For Taryn, a highlight of working with FUWL is assisting the Street Soccer program. In particular, a proud moment was in September, 2009 when the SA team arrived back from Milan, Italy.  Taryn was present to welcome them home at Parliament in Cape Town and seeing the acknowledgment the players received was an overwhelming experience.  Having witnessed this program first hand, Taryn feels strongly that through something like Street Soccer, the lives of young people can be transformed.  Street Soccer has given these young men hope and courage and has shown them what value they have as people.  Through this film about Street Soccer, her hope is that people will see, feel and understand the journey these young men take and witness how the program has affected their lives.  She hopes that when people see Streetball, their perceptions of street kids will be changed; that the viewers will be captivated and place themselves in these characters’ shoes, and that audiences will develop an understanding of the brave journey these young men have taken.  Most of all, she would like people to approach this film with an open heart and mind and to draw on their compassion in order to understand the difficulties of others–and how such difficulties can be overcome.


PRODUCTION NOTES

Behind the scenes stories of producing the feature documentary, Streetball.

STREETSOCCER_DOC_23_  6822Streetball 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.


From Us With Love

From Us With Love, the non-profit organization that was behind the making of Streetball.

“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

www.FromUsWithLove.org

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.



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.

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

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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.

Day 1, HWC (16)

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

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