The 2010 Homeless World Cup has recently concluded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A football tournament played by teams comprised of homeless people from 46 countries, the contest aims to provide a "vision for a healthy, abundant, confident, world where everyone has a home".
This year, Canada's entry into the tournament was heavy on local talent. Vancouver's Alan Bates was blogging from Rio de Janeiro and has filed this report from day 11 of the team's adventures.
Hi Street Soccer Canada fans,
I bet you thought you had read the last update. For the last few days, I thought you might have already read the last update too. We're all back home now and things have been busy for everyone. But the welcome back we've received from supporters, friends, and family has been amazing. Too amazing for me to fail to find time for the last update. Thanks so much again for sticking right with us through the rough parts of the tournament and pledging your support.
There are more great photos from Sarah Blyth.
Day 11 of our adventure featured the final games of the tournament and the closing ceremonies. In the men's final, Chile squared off against host Brazil (sorry to anyone who put money on my picks of Mexico and Kenya). One of Chile's players went on to be named the top male player of the tournament, but the game was all Brazil. The greatest football nation in the world put an incredible team on the pitch that was lead by their bespectacled keeper who can intercept incoming danger better than a patriot missile. Unlike the traditional free-flowing Brazilian game, there was a clear system being used by the home team. Whenever their defense intercepted the ball, they fed it to the goalie who immediately one-timed it straight up the middle to a striker who always knew what to do with it. I'm sure they make it look easy, but it's definitely one to add to our playbook for Paris 2011.
The women's contest also featured Brazil, in a match-up with fan favourites Mexico. Because Mexico had a men's team and a women's team, they always had lots of fan support. And it wasn't just butts in the seats. The Mexican fans had face paint, whistles, headbands, noisemakers, and—best of all—several Mexican-style wrestling masks a-la Nacho Libre. Unfortunately for the Mexican faithful, the Brazilian women also proved too much for their competition and the host nation walked away with both trophies.
Despite falling slightly short of the big prizes, the Mexican teams were very impressive and there's a Canadian connection to their success. One of the Mexican coaches got his start in Street Soccer coaching Team Canada. He now oversees a program in Mexico with over 6,000 men and women enrolled. Roughly half the participants are women. Though we will likely never have as large a program in Canada, we would like to have more female Street Soccer players. How cool would it be to have a co-ed team or even a full women's team in Paris? The other thing about the Mexican program that would be great to replicate here is the participation of a major sponsor. TelMex (the Mexican equivalent of Bell or Telus) sponsors the Mexican program and as a result, everything about their organization looked first-class.
At the closing ceremonies, each player received a medal and each team including us received a silver plate stating this year's ranking. We're number 40! Woohoo! No shame there, believe me. In addition to the men's cup and the women's cup, there were some other extra awards for things like best male and female player, top three coaches (guess I bribed the wrong guy), et cetera. There was also a Fair Play award which went to... wait for it... Canada! There were huge cheers throughout the crowd from all our new friends as we collected our trophy as well as genuine Brazilian national team jerseys for each player and coach.
Now, I've been around sports long enough to know that awards like this sometimes just go to the team that obviously couldn't compete with the others and that everyone just kind of felt sorry for. That was not the case here. Our guys earned every bit of that award. Always cheering for other teams, always entertaining the crowd, ambassadors for Canada down every street we walked, not taking a single card the whole tournament, and always respectful of the officials.
The other volunteers and I couldn't have been more proud of the self-generated, genuine Canadian spirit that our players packed with them everywhere they went. Given the background of many of the players and the nature of this competition, I think we can all agree that it was special to receive the Fair Play award.
As the final gathering of all the teams, the closing ceremonies also provided a final opportunity for the players to collect souvenirs from around the world. If there's one thing people from the Downtown Eastside don't need lessons in, it's trading goods. The guys swapped shirts for bags, flags for pins, shorts for shorts (seriously), hats for wrestling masks, and acquired a huge array of items from around the globe.
Overall, I can only say that the 2010 Homeless World Cup was an incredible experience. I think it's a time that the players will find strength in for the rest of their lives, and it's something that couldn't have been provided without all of your support. To Street Soccer coaches, volunteers, fans, and sponsors right across the country: Thank you so much!
Until Paris 2011,