Vote for Alan Bates!

Alan Bates with the Portland FC team at the Homeless World Cup in Brazil

Dear Gumbooteers.

Rarely do Kurt and I call on you for swift and decisive action. But we’re asking for it now. Please visit MLS W.O.R.K.S. (which stands for Major League Soccer … W.O.R.K.S?) and vote to make friend of The ‘Boot, Alan Bates, the MLS Community MVP. Nominated by Vancouver Whitecaps FC, here are a few words about Coach Bates:

For the last four years, Dr. Alan Bates has been leading Vancouver’s Street Soccer community. Street Soccer is soccer for people affected by homelessness. As a resident physician in Vancouver’s inner-city hospital, Dr. Bates sees many people affected by mental illness, addictions and homelessness in the emergency room. When he heard about Street Soccer, he recognized it as an opportunity to help a similar group of people, but through sport. Shortly after joining Vancouver’s first Street Soccer team as a volunteer, Dr. Bates partnered with a small number of grass-roots volunteers and the Portland Hotel Society (one of Vancouver’s largest social housing providers) to form Portland FC. With Dr. Bates as the volunteer Head Coach, Portland FC has gone on to play with or against the Vancouver Police, the Mayor of Vancouver and some of the Vancouver Whitecaps. In 2010, they represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro where they won the prestigious Fair Play award and were featured on national and international media including CBC, CTV, and CNN. In addition to providing amazing experiences for the players, the team has generated a lot of public interest in the issue of homelessness as people are able to identify with soccer players and the inherent humanity of the highs and lows of the beautiful game. Dr. Bates also played a significant role in creating Canada’s first ever women’s Street Soccer team which represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Paris in 2011. As the President of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, Dr. Bates has grown the League to nine teams including teams for women, new immigrants, street youth, and First Nations players. Dr. Bates’ research about Street Soccer has demonstrated that players find better housing, gain employment, reduce drug use, make friends, build confidence, improve their skills and physical fitness, gain medical support and decrease contact with police. For the last four years, players have known that every Sunday morning, rain or shine, all year-round, Dr. Bates will be there to lead practice and provide a safe and fun environment to play soccer with friends and supports.

Meta World Peace being honoured and priviledged to meet Coach Alan Bates

Thanks very much for your time and consideration, Awesome Community-Members. Now get out there and vote early, often and tell 10 friends about this post.

Enjoy!

Masthead photo courtesy of robholland’s photostream on Flickr

Fidel Vila – The Spanish Hurricane

Who are you?

A guy who loves  being around his family.

Psychiatry is a passion of mine, and I am fortunate to practice and teach at both Saint Paul’s Hospital and UBC Hospital; also, I combine my clinical work with research on mental health.

What do you do for fun?

I am a relentless soccer player, and a photography enthusiast. Since my first daughter was born, however, I can spend hours just witnessing the wonders of live reflected in her development. It might have something to do with sleep deprivation, but when I’m around her the notion of time and space often seem to get on hold and I can submerge into a pure here-and-now moment. Frank Cottrell, a British writer, once said that family is probably the only distraction that makes you feel virtuous when you surrender to it; and I couldn’t agree more.

What’s your favourite community and why?

Even though I have lived most of my live in large cities and feel comfortable living in them, there is something reminiscent of my childhood that I can only experience whenever I spend time in small communities. It is difficult to pin-point what it is, but I sense that a special connection between people happens in such communities. The Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast are places in BC where I have had such experiences.

What is your superpower?

This is rather mundane, but I have recently been told that I am a people’s person.
Reflecting on this recent comment, I realized that I have always seen myself as someone who enjoys listening to people around me, and that has allowed to create meaningful connections.

How does your superpower help you build community?

A great deal of what a can be accomplished as a community relies on the strength and meaningfulness of the relationships its members create among themselves.

Patient and active listening seems to be a good ingredient to promote the above.

My Three Favourite Things About Fidel Are…

1. Phenomenal soccer prowess.  There’s a reason that we (or maybe it’s just me…?) call him the Spanish Hurricane. It’s not just his ball control or killer spinning shot that makes him great. It’s that way he moves and passes and sets his team-mates up that makes him truly inspiring. When Fidel’s on the field, you know he’ll make you somehow pull off beautiful plays. It’s inspiring to play with so a generous a player.

2. His sympathetic and kindly manner. Here’s a guy who exudes warmth and thoughtfulness. He’s the type of person you feel you can trust and who general aura gives off a kinship. This might be something that you’d think would be a given as a psychiatrist. But with Fidel, it isn’t professional; its personal.

3. Commitment to helping his community. Be it his hard work writing grants to raise money for the Portland FC, his thoughtful suggestions at countless organizing meetings or the hours he devotes to coaching and mentoring street soccer players on the court – this is a guy who’s committed to his community and giving back to it wherever possible. And that’s just his volunteer stuff. His day job is to help those suffering from all sorts of mild and severe mental illness find their way in life.

Special Bonus Reason #4. He makes an amazing Spanish tortilla!

As told by Kurt Heinrich…

Portland FC to Take on Vancouver Police this Friday

A big soccer game is on the horizon and it isn’t the Vancouver Whitecaps or Octopi Vancouver that are playing. This Friday, the Portland FC and Portland Phoenix, two of Vancouver’s top Street Soccer teams, will be locking horns with the Vancouver police department. Both sides are confident and they should be. Last year’s tournament at Andy Livingstone was a neck and neck game. The cops were big and (contrary to popular perception) clad in red, not blue. They were also as fast as roadrunners and in the end, despite a fierce game, the speed and skills paid off with a 4 – 2 win for the cops on a VERY rainy Friday night.

This year’s game will be Friday, February 24 at Trillium field at 4 PM sharp. Both teams are gearing up for a fun game. Portland FC and Phoenix in particular are looking for supporters to come out and support the team. If that’s you, make sure you show up and help cheer us to victory. If you’re cheering for the cops – that’s ok too. We’re not THAT competitive (wink).

Patrick Oleman – Street Soccer Champion

Who are you?

Patrick Oleman, captain of the 2010 Homeless World Cup Team Canada and captain of Woodwards FC – a street soccer team based in the Downtown Eastside out of the famous Woodwards Building. Oh, and I’m also a long distance runner.

What do you do for fun?

Run, play soccer and visit people from the street in and around the Downtown Eastside.

What your favorite community?

The Downtown Eastside – because it is my hood. There are so many interesting people down here that need help, but for whatever reason, just can’t get the help they need. I like to try to help them and when it happens, it’s the best feeling in the world. It makes me feel like a better person.

What’s your superpower?

Bringing out the best in people.

How use it to build community?

The more people I encourage and engage the bigger the community becomes and the better and more inclusive it is. I saw this first hand when I worked with team-mates to build Woodwards FC.

My Three Favourite Things About Patrick Oleman Are…

1. Enthusiasm for sport. This is a guy who loves sports. He loves soccer (with a passion) and that mad love affair is enough to get you plugged in and ready to do yet another set of drills. Don’t feel like it, “2 laps” (as Patrick would say). This enthusiasm never ceases to inspire me. Around two years ago, Patrick was out of shape and facing homelessness. Two years later he has competed in a world tournament in Brazil, practices 4-5 times a week and runs about every other day he isn’t playing soccer. In the coming weeks he’s planning on running a half marathon – something he’s been training for for months. His pure love of sports enough to make you a believer of its power to heal and transform.

2. His role building and expanding Street Soccer in Metro Vancouver. Patrick’s ongoing engagement in Street Soccer is inspiring. He’s been a committed member of the Portland FC and the Vancouver Street Soccer league for well over two years (a lifetime when you consider the rapid turnover of the team’s players). He’s also taken on a mentorship role with players both on the pitch and off it. That’s led to the creation of a new street soccer team (Woodwards FC) and the inclusion of a over half a dozen new players, many of whom have also become longtime members of the soccer club. Without Patrick, Woodwards FC and Portland FC would not have been able to make the same amazing progress over the past year in engaging people at risk of homelessness with a potentially world-changing sport.

3. His backwards jump kick soccer shot.  It’s a thing to behold, even if it doesn’t hit the mark every time its done. Heck, even the Whitecaps think it’s cool.

Whitecaps FC connects with Street Soccer Community

Photo courtesy of Metro News.

Yesterday afternoon Whitecaps FC players Jeb Brovsky, Shea Salinas, Bilal Duckett and Jonathan Leathers joined dozens of street soccer players at Oppenheimer park for a pick up game and meet and greet. It was an amazing afternoon for many players who’ve faced homelessness and addiction challenges in their lives.

It’s  always awesome when two wicked communities come together and it’s hard to imagine a better fit than these two organizations. Both are committed and passionate about the power of soccer. Organizers of both teams seem optimistic that Wednesday’s practice will lay the groundwork of a developing relationship between Vancouver’s premiere soccer club and the Vancouver Street Soccer League – an organization designed to use the power of sport to empower and engage some of the city’s most marginalized citizens.

For many of the players of both Portland FC and Phoenix, the scrimmage with the caps was a once in a life time chance to pass to and score against MLS players.

Next week a five mens team players and eight women will be leaving BC to compete on behalf of Canada at the international competition. The scrimmage was a good preview for some of the high level play Team Canada can expected at the upcomingHomeless World Cup in Paris, France.

Last year Team Canada took home the Fair Play Award for their sportsmanship at the tournament hosted in Rio. This year Canada is sending both a mens and Women’s team. Organizers are hopeful the Paris trip will be just as positive and transformational for the teams’ players as the Rio trip was. Many of the team members who’ve returned have stayed hooked on soccer, off drugs and been successful in finding housing.

Dispatches from Brazil – Team Canada and the Homeless World Cup Part 3

Last week the Gumboot updated you on Team Canada’s current status at the Homeless World Cup in Brazil. Now, without further adieu, Team Canada head coach Alan Bates gives his final dispatch that details the final leg of our journey. Here is Alan Bates final update:

Day 9

Well, today is our last day here in Rio. A lot has happened over the last three days so I’ll try to get you caught up before we have to leave for the airport.

For pictures from a triumphant Day 9, see:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=494628&id=852065453&l=3e0b843e07

I knew Day 9 was going to go well when we actually left the hostel on time. After our Canada cheer and a quick trip on the Metro, we arrived at the Mellow Yellow hostel for breakfast. The meals there have been really good. Breakfast has generally been cheese, ham, eggs, and hotdog slices in somekind of sauce. Hotdogs in tomato sauce seems to be the classic version, but you wouldn’t believe how many different delicious hotdog concoctions there can be (for dinner as well as breakfast). Our hostel serves a slightly less refined version of the hotdogs in tomato sauce, so we generally made the trip to Mellow Yellow for the higher quality version.

Our first game of the day was against Switzerland. I’d scouted them a bit over the first few days of the tournament and they’d had some nice results: 7-1 over Greece, a win on penalties after a 3-3 tie with Hungary (who beat us 6-1), and 12-1 against New Zealand. I thought we could play with them though. Taking a page right out of the Coach’s Corner playbook, I used our pre-game huddle to ask the guys if they knew why we didn’t have names on the back of our jerseys (true answer is that we didn’t know who all the players were going to be before they made the jerseys). Don Cherry-esque answer I gave the guys: Because you don’t play for the name on the back, you play for the crest on the front. That got a combination of cheers and laughter and I don’t know if it helped or not, but it was fun to say.

Whether because of the Don Cherry-like address, the tomato sauce slathered hotdog bits or some other unknown variable, we came out flying against the Swiss. Our team defence was even better than it was against Mexico. Every time we lost the ball in the other team’s end, someone was right back to put an end to any Swiss opportunism. We were sacrificing the body as shot after Swiss shot was blocked in one fashion or another. There were some rockets that got through our defence, but they would only get so far. With his performance of the week and one that would redefine his level of play for the rest of the tournament, keeper Kevin King stepped it up big time. He was hitting the deck, stacking the pads, flailing out arms, whatever was needed. Switzerland would manage only one goal against him. Unfortunately, the Swiss defence was equally resolute.

In close games like this, you always look to the character players. Having already secured our first win with a hat-trick, Richard Mountain left nothing to chance when he unleashed an unfaltering one-timer from the left side of the net that would send us into sudden-death penalties. With his previoius penalty performance fresh in my memory, it was an easy decision to give Robert Milton the nod for our first shot. It was a decision that wouldn’t be second-guessed as he answered the call by putting it in the upstairs left corner where mother keeps the Toblerones. In the only ending that could do justice to his performance throughout the whole game, Kevin King then came out to the top of the crease, made himself big and gobbled up Switzerland’s only chance to keep the competition alive.

We were ecstatic with our second win of the tournament. It could be argued that New Zealand was a team we should have beat, but this was different. If I knew who any of the Swiss guys were, I think I’d be able to say they have a more skilled team on paper than we do. It was a real gutsy performance with a deserved result. Between games, we celebrated our big win with refreshments at one of the boardwalk kiosks and even did a little congo-line dancing when some musicians stopped by provide some entertainment and take an unreasonable amount of our money.

Our second game of the day was against India. In a familiar pattern, we played another good game against a team that was just a few steps ahead of us in skill and experience. Jeremy Isaac continued his good form with a couple of goals to keep things interesting in an 8-2 loss.

Having taken care of business at the tournament, it was time to hit the beach in Ipanema. We jumped through huge waves, played some football with the locals, caught some rays, and bought some ridiculous items from the roaming beach vendors. Ipanema was followed up by a veritable feast of a selection of fine meats and other delicacies courtesy of Paul Gregory, the head of Street Soccer Canada.

We then retreated to the hostel to get ready for a night out in Lapa. Lapa is a party district filled with restaurants, bars and clubs. The guys were looking pretty stylin’ and we had a fun time wandering through the festive crowds. In the end though, that environment proved a bit too much for a couple of the guys and we cut the night a little early. We needed to re-focus for Hong Kong in the morning.

Day 10

This update is coming to you from the airspace between Winnipeg and Minneapolis as Team Canada flies on the last leg of our trip home. There are still two days of Homeless World Cup excitement that I haven’t chronicled for you, so here’s Day 10.

As always, Day 10 comes with a selection of Sarah Blyth’s great pictures of the team and their growing global community of friends and fans:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=494635&id=852065453&l=5070291fa4
I forgot to mention in the Day 9 update that there was good news and bad news related to our victory over Switzerland. The good news was that it propeled us into a higher division for the playoff round of the tournament. The bad news was that it propeled us into a higher division for the playoff round of the tournament. The tournament had three rounds. For the first, each team ends up with a random selection of opponents as determined by a draw (Ireland, Romania, Cambodia, and Mexico for us). For the second round, teams are divided into a top half and a bottom half based on results (we were in the bottom half) and then teams are put into groups with only teams from their half who they have not yet played (we got New Zealand, Hungary, Finland, and Switzerland). For the final Cup round, there are are 6 trophies that teams compete for. The best 8 teams compete for the Homeless World Cup, the next 8 teams compete for another trophy, the next 8 for another trophy, etc. Beating New Zealand and Switzerland caused us to bid adieu to the cellar dwellers and move up into the Community Cup competition against India, Hong Kong, Sweden, Argentina, Switzerland, Greece, and our old friends Cambodia. With soccer superpower Argentina, tough previous opponent Switzerland, and an excellent Hong Kong and Sweden teams that I was surprised were in one of the lower cups, it was a group that we could be proud members of. As described in the Day 9 update, India was our first tough opponent in the quarterfinals and they dispatched us to the lower half of the Community Cup competition.

Hong Kong had a really good team including a very acrobatic keeper, so we were surprised to be playing them in our first game on Day 10. Everyone was excited to play Hong Kong. There are obviously lots of connections between Vancouver and Hong Kong and there was definitely an atmosphere that this was a special game for players and coaches on both teams. Many teams give somekind of gift to the team they’re playing before each match. We gave a set of Canada pins to each team. Hong Kong gave us a t-shirt and some festive-looking Chinese decorations. From the opening whistle, it seemed like we were again on top form. Our defensive tenacity was reminiscent of our game against Switzerland. We also had our share of chances, but Hong Kong’s keeper had (sometimes spectacular) answers for everything we launched at him. Continuing his excellent play, Canadian keeper Kevin King wasn’t to be outplayed as Hong Kong only scored once during regular play. They added a penalty marker that resulted from a miscommunication between our D and our keep for a tight 2-0 win. It was easy to hold our heads high after what was a great result against a very good team.

After nine games, our fate was limited to either 7th or 8th place in the Community Cup and 39th or 40th place in the whole tournament. Standing between us and that coveted 39th spot… Cambodia. The Cambodians were the perfect matchup to end the tournament with. As our neighbours in the hostel next door, they had become very good friends of ours. The language barrier was easily toppled by good spirit and a common understanding of what the Homeless World Cup is all about. This was also true for our interactions with other teams. Smiles, high-fives, cool handshakes, soccer ball juggling, laughter, and hugs are pretty universal. In addition to the friendship factor, the Cambodians were also the one team that we all felt we hadn’t played to our potential against. We just didn’t show up that morning. So, we couldn’t wait for a chance to redeem ourselves.

For some reason, we weren’t a good defensive matchup against the Cambodian attack, despite a good effort. I think they scored the same number of goals against us as they did in our first meeting. However, the game was close most of the way and there was a completely different feel to the game. One main difference is that we were relentless in counter-attack. Threatening in every game throughout the tournament, Jeremy Isaac scored to bring his tournament total to six. As if one goal-machine wasn’t enough, Peter Chow scored twice to equal Jeremy’s team-leading finishing. The third man to work the scorekeeper was Frank Studdhorse who put his shot well out of reach of the Cambodian keeper to bring the number of different outfield players on the team to score during the tournament to six out of a possible seven. Frank’s goal was followed by a big grin for which, in addition to the abilitly to work the statement “Sandwich!” into any conversation, he has become globally known. The only non-keeper who didn’t score in the tournament was co-captain Patrick Oleman, which is surprising given the quality of his shot that he’s been perfecting for months. It’s not like he didn’t contribute offensively though. Like Gretzky, Patrick’s primary contribution moving up the field is play making. Add this to his ferocious defence and leadership on and off the field and there’s no mystery why I started him on the pitch for all 10 games. Although we played Cambodia to a similar scoreline as in our first encounter, we were proud of our play. Any real sports fan will tell you that the same score does not mean the same game.

Two great games were followed by an experience of a lifetime. One of the volunteers at the tournament was a man named Zezinho who has the chaotic architecture of Rocinha Favela tattooed all over his body. Zezinho lives in Rocinha, but also lived in Canada (spending time in Toronto and Vancouver) for four years and has a love of hockey. He took an immediate liking to our team and was eager to give us a tour of Rocinha. He actually has a business (Favela Adventures; http://favelatour.org/) doing this for tourists from around the world. Rocinha is the largest favela in South America with over 300,000 inhabitants.

The chaos of the favela makes it a really beautiful place. Homes are stacked on top of each other up the side of the mountain. “Sidewalks” change form and height in front of every building. Businesses range from mechanics to beauty salons to dentists to restaurants to convenience stores. Motorcycles (many part of a taxi service) race up and down the winding roads. Electrical wires make unbelievable tangles at every makeshift utility pole. We took a small bus up to near the top of the favela and went to a large building that looked like a combination between an airplane hanger, a nightclub, a shed and an indoor soccer pitch. There, we had a great game against some kids who generally had an easier time against us than Ireland did. We all played barefoot and that definitely takes some rapid callous growth to get used to. After the game, we made our way to a rooftop with spectacular views of the entire favela with the skyscrapers of Rio and a large golf course as the ironic backdrop. Again, the random structure of the favela is surprisingly beautiful. We then made our way down some alleys between homes that are an incredible labyrinth to a place where we had a great chicken dinner. It cost 25 Reais (about $15) for about 15 people. In the rest of Rio, it would have been that price for each meal. Our next stop was Zezinho’s apartment where we were treated to a small fireworks display from somewhere else in the favela while we sat on his roof.

On our way down the rest of the hill we had another “unique” experience which was passing a large group of members of Rocinha’s drug gang. In the middle of restaurants, shops, and people going about their daily business, including a little girl with a bubble-making toy, there were 15 to 20 guys with assault rifles/machine guns. Some of them were on motorcycles, some were just standing around, and some were taking cover behind poles and pointing their weapons up the hill as if they, us and the bubble-blowing girl were under heavy fire. My understanding is that favelas are generally under the control of either a drug gang, a militia that extorts money from the businesses or the police, and that residents much prefer the drug gangs to the other two possibilities.

Our tour of the favela ended with us coming across a Capoeira demonstration at the bottom of the hill. Having trained in several different martial arts including Capoeira, Daniel Errey had a go at partnering up with one of the locals. He didn’t look out of place and the local group had fun dancing with/facing off against him.

An interesting thing about our trip to the favela was that the experience was lost on a few of our guys. Most had a great time and learned a lot, but a few simply had no interest in being there. One player had to be taken back to the hostel at the very start of the tour because he was tired and anxious. Another could not understand why we would want to be in such a terrible place, a thought that many likely have about the Downtown Eastside. The lesson for me was that despite unbelievable poverty in the favela, the average kid there has far fewer problems in life than what people with addictions, developmental disabilities, and severe mental illness face no matter where they are.

Dispatches from Brazil – Team Canada and the Homeless World Cup

It has been a pretty amazing trip from Team Canada. Last week they departed from Brazil after prepping and practicing for well over a year. Lots has been written about the team. For a quick snapshot, check out this CNN story or take a look at one of our more recent posts.

Over the past week, Team Canada coach Alan Bates has been sending dispatches on the team’s progress to Vancouver. Here’s a run down of the past five days!

Day 1

This update is coming to you straight from the Alpha Hostel in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro (aka Team Canada Headquarters). My aim is to write daily updates about our Homeless World Cup experience.

Yesterday was a long and very memorable day for all of us. We all gathered at the LifeSkills Centre right across from Oppenheimer Park to a very warm send-off by volunteers and fans. In characteristic fashion, Kailin See, Sarah Blyth and lots of other PHS volunteers put together a great event including a hot breakfast, haircuts, and matching track suits and bags for the whole team. We were looking slick by the time we stepped on our bus.

Like a post-game Canucks dressing room, the room was filled with media from radio, TV, and newspapers interviewing players. Kurt Heinrich has done an amazing job with keeping our media contacts informed and has created a real buzz in the city about the team.

The highlight of the morning was co-team captain Patrick Oleman’s uncle Tom performing a traditional Stlaltlium ceremony to send us on our way in the perfect mindset, telling our guys it’s time to “stand and walk like men”.

We were then followed to the airport by a CTV crew from the show First Story and were met there by another TV crew from CityTV. Fortunately, everything went smoothly at all the airports that we went through. It was a very long trip from Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to Sao Paulo, and finally Sao Paulo to Rio. Imagine doing that on your first day of air travel ever, as was the case for a lot of our guys.

The ride from the airport to our hostel was a big eye-opener for all of us. The scenes included sprawling Favelas of makeshift housing along the highways and young men dodging cars in the middle of very chaotic traffic trying to sell popcorn to motorists. It wasn’t lost on the guys that the popcorn sellers probably don’t get a cheque on the third Wednesday of every month.

We had a good team dinner at a burger joint around the corner from our hostel and everyone was ready to crash after that.

It’s now the morning after we arrived, and today has already provided lots of fun. We’ve been joined by Vancouver volunteers Daniel Errey, Sarah Blyth, and Kailin See. Wendy Perkins from Toronto is also in Rio now and we’re looking forward to getting our fresh new unis from her later today.

Team Korea is also staying in our hostel and the highlight of the morning has been an exhibition game with them at an urban graffiti-encircled soccer court nearby. I was impressed with our skill and sportsmanship in a friendly 3-0 win.

As I type, the guys are out playing again with the local kids in the alley/street outside the hostel. They’re learning a lot of sweet moves.

Day 2

Day 2 started with a meeting to comment on successes and address problems that we had on day 1. Let’s be honest, this kind of trip was never going to be without its challenges. I think we’re lucky to be here a bit early to work out little things and start to bond as a team.

If you just want to see some photo highlights from today, go to:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=490358&id=852065453&l=ac9f31afa1

After being joined by all the Vancouver-based volunteers who came a day later than the team, we decided we had to hit the beach. We played frogger across 7 or 8 highways (crosswalks seem not to have been invented yet in Brazil) to get to beautiful Botafogo beach. It’s covered in soccer nets. There’s also a great view of the Christ on the way there.

We then went for salad and pizza washed down with Guarana before returning back to the Hostel to wait for our uniforms. I can’t really describe in text how excited the guys were about the unis: home and away professional-looking jerseys, shorts, socks, new shoes, and tons of flags. Paul, Wendy, and Michelle from Street Soccer Canada did a great job getting it all together and to Rio. There were expletives and tears, both out of happiness.

After taking some pictures at the Hostel, we went to break in the new gear by playing with the kids that the players have befriended. We mixed up the teams and had a great game. The kids have awesome skill. A little more size and you could see them really tearing up a soccer field. Some other guys who were standing around joined in the game too. It was a bit like those hockey commercials we have where a ball hockey game just spontaneously erupts out of random people on the street.

We finished the night with a casual dinner at the hostel and are looking forward to finding out who our competition is in the first round tomorrow. Korea, Norway, Poland, and the US are all staying near us. The guys want to play the best teams. We all feel it’s just going to be so cool to play teams from other countries. It doesn’t really matter who the individual guys are. Just the fact that they all flew here from some other nation to compete with us is awesome.

Day 3

Daniel Errey got Day 3 off to an energetic start by taking the players to the beach for a workout. Nothing like a run on the beach and a quick dip in the Atlantic to get you going in the morning.

After the players grabbed a quick breakfast, we took the metro over to the far end of Copacabana. The metro is free for all Homeless World Cup participants. The cold rain that greeted us in Copacabana made us feel right at home. Despite the weather, we had a great walk along most of the length of the seawall. Highlights included huge waves and intricate sandcastles.

We ran into a lot of teams on our way to the match venue and enjoyed shaking hands and meeting them. Once there, we were surrounded by other teams, many of them chanting or singing. Somehow, Go Canada Go, just didn’t live up to the soccer/football chants of some of the other nations, so we had to break out both the national anthem and also a First Nations warrior chant that is totally awesome. Five of our eight guys are First Nations. We’re representing Canada old-school!

We registered and got our picture taken and then were given new shoes, shirts, shorts, socks, and a team pair of goalie gloves and a ball. This was all courtesy of Nike. There was a bit of a delay for the HWC lunch, so we decided to do our own thing and went to a buffet where you pay by weight. It was thoroughly delicious.

We then returned to the hostel to dry off a bit and get ready to go back for the draw. While most guys were getting ready, I went with our goalie Kevin to try to get him a jock/cup somewhere. This mostly involved me walking up to store clerks, pointing at my crotch and getting a lot of confused looks. I think I know what they’re called now for when we try again tomorrow.

It was very exciting to find out who we’ll be playing in the first round. On Monday, we play Ireland and Romania and on Tuesday we play Cambodia and Mexico. I think it’ll be a tough group. The other teams look good. For the full Group lists and schedule, see www.homelessworldcup.org.

After the draw, we went out on the beach to practice free kicks (we’ve got some sneaky ones), corners, and moving the ball our from our goalie. That was followed by a barefoot scrimmage and a round of coconuts.

We wandered around Copacabana a bit more, going to a street market and then watching our local team Botafogo play on TV in the Brazilian league at a cafe. It was then time for dinner at the HWC headquarters at a hostel called the Mellow Yellow. The food was actually really good. Mmmmm, butter chicken.

Since getting back home, we’ve just spent some casual time at the hostel. The guys are really coming together as a group and we haven’t even stepped on the court yet.

Tomorrow will include the parade, opening ceremonies, and the first day of games. Unfortunately we don’t play, but that will give us a chance to scout the opposition and get a feel for things.

We’re itching to get into it.

Day 4

The Homeless World Cup festivities got into full swing on Day 4 with the parade and opening ceremonies. We had a great time during the parade right down the boardwalk along Avenue Atlantica in Copacabana. We were lead by a children’s Brazilian drum group and that lead to lots of dancing, including Co-Captain Patrick Oleman busting out some traditional First Nations dancing. We also brought out the national anthem and the First Nations warrior chant that has become one of our trademarks.

At the end of the parade, everyone filed into the competition venue for the opening ceremonies. Co-captains Kevin King and Patrick Oleman both got turns waving the Canadian flag as part of the ceremony. Unfortunately, the ceremony was a bit of a bust because the sound system wouldn’t work which meant that nobody could here either Mel Young (the President of the Homeless World Cup) or another guy who I think was the Mayor of Rio. I guess I’ll never know, but I was impressed with his support for the tournament anyways.

Games got under way pretty soon after the opening ceremony. It was hard for all of us to watch games and not play. We learned a lot watching the other teams though. Fortunately/unfortunately, we learned a lot from Ireland and Mexico (both in our group) who dished out the biggest smack-downs of the day with twin 14-0 wins (vs. Romania and Cambodia respectively). The best teams have amazing skill and also have really effective systems for defending.

Even though we didn’t play on Day 4, we built on our fan-base significantly by cheering for other teams and putting on a formidable display of good cheer. Our favourite teams have included Korea, Poland, Cambodia, and the Phillipines. We’re the official cheering section for these and several other teams. Usually Canadian soccer fans are so reserved compared to in other places, but not here. We’re so loud that other countries try to recruit us to cheer for them before games.

We continued the jockstrap expedition for a brief time. I brought back-up and mostly got Sarah Blyth and Kailin See to make fools of themselves trying to ask for one. We didn’t find one despite going to many sporting goods store. Brazilians must have balls of steel and little experience with ice hockey. Anyways, our goalie decided he didn’t need one in the end.

I went to my first coach’s meeting in the evening. It’s basically where all the countries’ coaches and managers can complain about things. Some of the coaches are pretty intense about rule interpretations.

Day 5

Today was obviously very exciting because we had our first two games. After getting ready in the morning, we made our way to the venue and onto the practice pitch to get warmed up. We had a good warm-up, but the Irish looked like they really knew what they were doing. It turned out that was more than a hunch. In a result that should surely put my job on the line, we got our butts kicked 15-1 by Ireland. The HWC website says 17-1, but that’s just not true and it does make a difference. The highlight of the game was when Jeremy Isaac introduced the ball to the top corner of the Irish net off a well placed corner by Peter Chow to make it 1-1. It was almost as if we practiced it (cough – we did – cough). The TSN turning point came when Ireland went ahead 2-1, about 3 minutes into the game. Before the game, I told the guys I just wanted to feel like we left it all on the field. That’s exactly what I felt. We learned a lot, but all the strategy in the world wasn’t going to win that game for us.

Our guys are so positive that you would have thought we won our first game 15-1. Everyone saw it as a learning experience and was honoured to have played with such a good team. We had a lot of fun between games. We got to watch a lot of great soccer. I’m calling Kenya and Mexico in the final. You heard it here first. I haven’t seen many of the women’s teams, but the guys like Norway and the Netherlands. But it might not be just soccer skill that they “like” about them, gnome sayin, so they might not be the teams to put your savings down on.

What we lack in scoring finesse, we make up for in cheering dominance. I think we deserve half the credit for Poland’s win over England today for our unending “Polska! Polska! Polska!” cheer throughout the game. I’ve got to admit that as someone with English roots who also lived in Nottingham for three years, it felt wrong inside to cheer against the three lions. The English keeper didn’t like our choice of alliance either and let us know about it after the game (in a very friendly way). I’ll have to teach the guys some British football chants and make it up to England another day.

Aside from our cheering, we’ve become well-loved in other ways as well. Yesterday, one of our guys came up to me to tell me that we were giving our shoes to Italy. “What!!?” was my immediate response. Turned out they ran out of free shoes and Italy didn’t bring as many as they needed. Some of their guys were looking at starting their game in flip-flops. Now, maybe this makes me a bad person, but I’ve got to say that even after the situation was explained to me a bit, I really didn’t like the idea of us giving away our shoes. We’ve done all this planning, come all this way, tried to make everything right, and the day before we play we’re going to give away our shoes!? To Italy!? Don’t they make shoes? But, of course, the guys were right. It was absolutely the right thing to do. The Italians only wanted to borrow the shoes. So, our shoes beat Croatia 8-6 and we got them back. Until today that is, when we lent them to Italy again between our games. I’m not sure what their result was, but if they won that means our shoes are a respectable 2 and 2 after today.

It’s our player Robert Milton’s birthday today and he requested ice cream, so we shared a couple of small tubs of it with lunch. Right after that, we went for a bit of a dip in the waves and some sandcastle building. The ridiculousness included backflips, and Baywatch-style David Hassellhoff  impressions.

Having watched Romania on the first day of games, I thought they were going to be tough but that we might be able to take them. They only had four guys on the first day, so I thought maybe we would tire them out with our full team. However, there’s a little known rule at the HWC that if a team is short of players, they can request to use local “inexperienced” players from the host country. That would be fine if this was India or even Sweden or something. Try finding an “inexperienced” soccer player in Rio. So, we played most of the second-half against two Brazilians and one Romanian (the games are four-aside, three and a goalie). The end result was an 8-2 loss, but you’ve got to believe me that we learned from our Ireland experience and actually played really great defense. You have to keep one player over half all the time, so you’re always defending with two against three. It’s a high-scoring game. We also had two great goals. Jeremy Isaac is now a goal-a-game man with his second of the tournament and Robert Milton celebrated his birthday by suavely sliding it past the Romanian keeper on a penalty.

The evening has had its share of interpersonal conflicts, so that’s been a bit rough on the players and the volunteers trying to patch everything together. The best medicine would be a win against Cambodia in the morning.

Alan Bates

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to an ongoing segment here at The Daily Gumboot. It’s called “Get to Know Your Community” and, basically, it goes like this: each and every Sunday we will profile someone from a community somewhere. Each person is asked the same five questions (see below as well as in the “Ideas from Everywhere” page). At the end of the profile, the Gumbooteer (member of this blog’s Editorial Board) who found the person will list their three favourite things about the highlighted community member. Savvy?

Here are some ideas from everywhere. Here is one way that we try to build community. Have fun with it!

The doctor is in.

1. Who are you?

A sucker for punishment. After 13 years of university, I’ve finally had a real job for the last year and a half as a Psychiatry Resident at UBC. I’m currently working at St. Paul’s Hospital and continuing to learn things from supervisors and patients. Before starting medical school, I did a PhD in Neuroscience that focused on measuring EEG/brain waves in people with schizophrenia with the aim of trying to understand the illness better. Now I’m trying to combine research and clinical work so that each enhances the other.

2. What do you do for fun?

I’m always up for any kind of team sport. Soccer and ball hockey are probably my two favourites. It’s great to lose yourself in the excitement and unpredictability of sports, and victory and defeat are both so much better when shared with a team. I also like to watch hockey and go to movies and concerts with friends and family.

3. What’s your favourite community and why?

Portland FC forever! I’ve been fortunate enough to play with and coach this amazing soccer team of residents from Portland Hotel Society buildings and other hotels and shelters in the Downtown Eastside. I’ve seen skill, dedication, and most of all camaraderie beyond anything that I’ve seen on any other team. In addition to a great team, we’ve got a great network of volunteers as well, and it’s an honour to work with everyone. Look out Toronto and the rest of Canada, because we’re coming to the National Street Soccer Championships!

4. What is your superpower?

I’ve been told that my limerick-writing abilities are wasted in my current profession.

5. How does your power help you build community?

It’s fair to say that it’s crimeless

If in the end your message ain’t timeless

But if you’re going to spread reason

From season to season

You’d best be sure it’s not rhymeless

My three favourite things about Alan Bates are…

1. He’s cool as a cucumber. That’s sort of what has to happen when your dealing everyday with folks suffering from a dogs-breakfast of mental illnesses. Despite his ability to calmly help people deal with serious struggles, Alan’s also got a deep compassionate streak. He does what he does because he cares and that’s just groovy.

2. He’s a world class soccer coach. Alan is the master of drills. He’s a calm and structured voice in the sometimes unstructured community of Portland FC. He’s also got mad skills and a coach’s passion for his team. Take a recent tournament played in North Van. Portland was in dead heat with their arch rivals and the team was getting some suspect calls from the ref. Despite this, Alan managed to retain a strategic head while still moving to within millimeters of the sidelines and (in the time honored tradition of all great coaches) gestured wildly in an effort to advocate for our team – or so goes the word on the street.

3. He’s genuinely committed to making a difference. Over the past year I’ve practiced and played with Alan every week. It has been a terrific experience and I’ve constantly been impressed by his strong belief in the team and the good it is doing in a community he very obviously cares about. The Downtown Eastside needs more people like Alan and the profession of psychiatry needs more doctors like him.

…as told by Kurt Heinrich