Friday, June 19, 2009

Homeless Soccer Kicks Ass

This year I've gotten involved with Homeless Soccer program called Dreamcatchers.

The soccer's a blast. Players from our team are drawn from the New Fountain Shelter. Each Sunday at around 9:30 AM, a bus pulls out from the shelter (one of five emergency shelters set up by Gregor's HEAT team) and heads to Britannia.

On the bus are a few outreach workers and a variety of enthusiastic (and sometimes if it was a big Saturday night - not so energetic players). Ages range and so do skill levels. Some players can pass, dribble and shoot without any effort. Others have trouble standing up. I'm in the middle.

Throughout the morning, we usually drill. Our coach, a deputy fire cheif who may or may not be named Steve (I just refer to him as coach, which helps me avoid looking like an idiot for not remembering his name after meeting him half a dozen times) takes us through drills. We do all the drills any soccer team does - square passes, kicking the ball against the wall to get a perfect touch, and of course, the ol' scimmage.

Last weekend we played a game against another homeless soccer team from the North Shore who came equipped with a full kit. Our team sported fancy Rob and Big black t-shirts. Rob and Big are two gangster-looking guys. They sport baggy jeans and baseball caps. No one on the team knows who they are or why they're on our shirts - but then that's part of the fun of it all.

Atired in our Rob and Big shirts, the team assembled. We had a great crew and it was a beautiful day to be playing. Coach had set up a rough court in Woodlands Park off the drive and we started passing the ball around to get warmed up. When the whistle went, our team launched into action.

At half time, I was near dead. Slowly the team was starting to colease togeather. We were passing faster and fewer whistles were getting blown on yours truly. Everyone was working up a healthy sweat in the afternoon sun. After husling off the field we indulged in fresh oranges and a case of warm bottled water. Hello plastic intake.

Despite an earnest effort, we scored but one goal that game. A teammate from OnSite took a swift shot and put it under the fancily garbed opposing keeper's arms. It was a great victory. I won't tell you how many goals the other guys scored, but I will tell you that they were sponsored by the Whitecaps and we were sponsored by Rob and Big. I'm not saying that made a difference, but...

Next week the team will assemble again for practice. Slowly but surely we're becoming a small but tight crew. One of the ways I know is that when Earl (a player who happens to be an amazing aboriginal wood carver) or Don (super groovy hip sporty fellow) happen to not come that week, we all notice. We're from different places and certainly very different experiences, but the soccer, like it can be all over the world, is a binding force a la super glue.

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