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.
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.
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 a further update on how the team is doing. Here is Alan’s latest update of the team’s progress down in Brazil:
I ended the last update by letting you know that we were having some interpersonal difficulties on the team the night before our second day of games. We’d had a rough ride against Ireland and the Romanian-Brazilian alliance and we have 8 players and me stuffed into a room that’s three quarters the size of an average bedroom. Some conflict was inevitable.
But enough with the excuses. Our morning yesterday can only be described as disgraceful. When the opening whistle went for our morning game against Cambodia, it was clear that we were already in full process of losing. We started losing against Cambodia at about 8pm the night before. Team Cambodia have become good friends of ours. We’ve cheered for them through their loses and they’ve cheered for us through ours. They’re an easy team to cheer for. They just look like an underdog. Despite their youngest player being 17 and the rest of their team being well over 20, they all look like they’re about 12 by Canadian body-structure and size standards. By the time we played them, we’d already seen them get pushed around and generally pasted by two other teams. I think our team was ready to play a team that would surely lose to the old-ladies home, let alone a bunch of big bad guys from the hood in Vancity. We were ready for sure glory. Instead, the ball was in our net within the first three seconds. The game pretty much continued along those lines. I didn’t recognize our team out there. We didn’t get back to defend, we didn’t attack as a team, we didn’t communicate at all, and we got out-muscled and out-classed by a Cambodian team that deserves credit for bringing their A-game against us. Goals by Jeremy Isaac and Peter Chow were too little too late.
After every game, we meet as a team on the beach to talk about what went right and what went wrong. The players speak first and then Daniel Errey and I summarize what we agree with and make the points we want to add. Usually, I try to be pretty positive and I don’t anger easily. I didn’t have anything good to say about our game. I did have strong opinions on how our poor conduct the night before had lead to our abysmal performance and I didn’t hold back on sharing them with the team. And if they hadn’t really got the message from me, they sure had by the time team organizer extraordinaire Kalin See had translated my words into the players’ more familiar Downtown Eastside dialect.
The post-game discussion prompted co-captain Patrick Oleman to call a players-only meeting. The players had their meeting while all the volunteers also got together to talk about how things were going and how to optimize all the organization. I don’t know what was said in the players-only meeting, but they came away from it a different team. Despite not being the source of any of the conflict, Richard Mountain came back from the meeting with his teammates to offer a heartfelt apology on behalf of the team for letting down all the people supporting us back in Canada. The rest of the team seemed equally convinced they had a new direction.
We had a great warm-up for our game against Mexico. The team had new determination. I was wishing that we were playing a team that would allow this new attitude to translate into a win. Based on their easy victory over Ireland who creamed us 17-1, I figured we would need a miracle to beat Mexico. In the end, a win wasn’t necessary for us to get all the satisfaction we needed out of the game. We played amazing. Coming hard right out of the gates, we actually went up 1-0 and spent most of the first half losing by scores of only 2-1 or 3-2 (after goals by Robert Milton and Peter Chow). We were on fire. Everyone was getting back to defend and we were attacking with enough pressure to let the Mexicans know they had a real game on their hands. The MVP performance was definitely by goalkeeper Randy Comiso who probably put on the best performance by a Canadian keeper in an international game ever (Craig who?). The Mexicans can really shoot and Randy was getting a piece of everything. Unfortunately, he got too small a piece of one particularly hard shot and had to leave the game with a bad thumb sprain that required a trip to the hospital. For a great account of the Canada-Mexico game see: http://www.homelessworldcup.org/news/canada-2-11-mexico .
We were really proud of our performance against Mexico and fortunately there were some great things planned for the players that evening that were fitting celebrations. While Randy and I made a trip to the hospital, the rest of the team went to see the Christ the Redeemer statue up close. They all described it as an incredible experience. After getting back from the hospital, Randy and I were able to join everyone else for a full-moon gondola ride up to the top of Sugar Loaf. The views of the lights spreading around and sprawling up the hills of Rio were awesome. We started the day on a bad note, but definitely ended on the right one.
In case you’re curious about the hospital, I’ll describe it briefly. When we pulled up to Miguel Couto public hospital, we found the front steps full of people who were apparently waiting to get into Emergency. The “triage” system seemed to consist of a large security guard who eyed each new person and either let them in or told them to wait on the steps. He let Randy and our interpreter in, but wouldn’t let me come in with them. So I spent a couple hours trying to figure out the system for the people on the steps. I never did. In the end, Randy didn’t have to wait much longer than he would at a Canadian hospital. He did have to wait in several long lineups though. The good news was that there were no fractures and by today he is already able to move the thumb quite well.
We participated in three great soccer games on day 7. The first was our game against New Zealand. Similar to how the majority of our team is First Nations, the majority of the players on Team New Zealand are Maori. They’re big and they really throw their weight around. They also have at least one player who seems to be experiencing some psychosis at the tournament. A couple of days ago, I was just standing around and he started to yell at me “What’s your problem?!”, “What do you want man, what’s your problem?!”. There were several possible answers to those questions, but I don’t think any were what he was looking for. Fortunately, none of our players who have a history of psychotic episodes have experienced those kind of symptoms on our trip (as far as I know anyways).
Early in the game, I was worried that we would lose our cool against the repeated pushing fouls (some uncalled) that were being dished out by the very physical Kiwis. My worries faded away as incident after incident ended with our guys just getting up and continuing on with the play. A few months ago, at least one of our guys would get right up in your grill if you even looked at him funny. I was really proud to see such good discipline from our whole team. It paid off when a New Zealand player eventually received a blue card (which results in a two-minute penalty similar to in hockey) for overly aggressive play and we capitalized on the man advantage. But really, by that time we already had the game well in hand.
Just like we started losing the game against Cambodia the night before, we started winning the New Zealand game when we came out flying against Mexico. It turned out Richard Mountain wasn’t done sending a message after addressing our fans after the Cambodia game. Matching words with action, he lead the team’s offence with a well deserved hat-trick. We also found offensive production from Robert Milton with a pair of goals himself and one each from Peter Chow and Randy Comiso (while sporting a bandaged thumb from his injury against Mexico) to propel us to a comfortable 7-3 win. The team has a pretty positive attitude even after most loses, but it was really nice to get a W.
Our second game of the day was against Hungary. I was again impressed with our play and it was a tight game the whole way through. The eventual 6-1 scoreline flattered the Hungarians. The better team won, but I’m sure we would take a game or two against them in a best of seven series. Our goal came from the reliable right boot of Peter Chow and I couldn’t really fault our play in any particular area.
That night, we jumped on an on an opportunity to go see some Brazilian football. We joined Botafogo’s boisterous fans in a classic battle against Vasco and their supporters at the other end of the pitch. The fans put on an amazing spectacle. As I was watching huge flags waving, toilet paper streamers cascading onto the field and balloons being inflated with unending chanting and drumming, I turned around to realize that a soccer game had also started sometime after our arrival. Vasco controlled the majority of the play throughout the first half, but Botafogo came on in the second and eventually squeaked out a 2-2 draw on a penalty in the final minute. The fans were ecstatic with the comeback tie and nothing celebrates a great result like setting off flash grenades on the pedestrian ramps that lead out of the stadium.
So, another great day of soccer with more on the way.
Every morning as we leave the hostel, we gather in a circle and someone says something about Canada before we do a 1-2-3-Canada! cheer. You might not have guessed that some or our players are really into the history channel. Things shared in our morning ritual have included Billy Bishop shooting down the Red Baron, Canadians figuring out how to deal with mustard gas, and German POWs being well-treated (apparently with steak dinners?) in Eastern Canada during WWII. Although these are all related to conflicts with Germany, one of our players also told me that he really likes Germans and feels that of all the European cultures, theirs is most like his own First Nations culture. I didn’t get a lot of details, but there must be a Sociology thesis there somewhere.
Day 8 was relatively uneventful from a soccer point of view. We only had one game and I feel like there’s not a lot to say about it. Either that or I’m too tired to remember details. We played Finland, didn’t score, and got scored on a lot. We didn’t have a bad game, they were just a better team and we didn’t get any bounces. I’ve got to emphasize again how good the guys have been at just accepting very lopsided games like this, keeping a positive attitude and moving on.
The highlight of the day came off the pitch with our ride on the Santa Teresa streetcar. It only costs 60 cents (or whatever they’re called here) for an amazing 40-or-so minute trip. After a section of elevated track that makes it feel like you’re slowly floating (in a clunky kind of way) over the city in a streetcar, the tracks wind up narrow curving roads. The scenery includes restaurants, homes, and very impressive street art/graffiti. In addition to the paying customers, scores of kids hop on and off all the way up, barely missing telephone poles and buses going the other way as they hang from the side. Of course, our players couldn’t miss out on that kind of reckless fun so they also had a go at barely avoiding utility poles and side-mirrors. We’ve spent a lot of time near the tournament venue in Copacabana and this felt like a much more genuine part of the city. After the streetcar trip, the Theatro Municipal was also really spectacular at night with lights coming through all the stained-glass windows.
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!
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.