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now, the great thing about sports is the (near) universal appreciation of the stories behind the competition … so long as you know where to look.
for every $15-million slugger that dopes his way to the home run record, there is a $600,000 baller for the Celtics who overcomes homelessness on the way to win a NBA championship. for every perfectly-formed sprinter turned out by the u.s. track and field machine, there is a 41 year-old South African dissident who overcomes two shattered knees to break a world record at the World Pacific Games.
never has this been more apparent, that this morning when we went to the u.s.a. trials for the homeless world cup (which is exactly what it sounds like: a (soccer) world cup where all the competitors are homeless).
the tournament was started in 2001 by some activists for the homeless as a way to inspire the homeless to make positive life changes, and some 70% of past participants have gotten off the streets for good.
the u.s. team is being selected this weekend, with a tournament down by the old convention center. city teams from across the u.s. are participating (atlanta, charlotte, minneapolis, new york, the district, austin, etc) with the the best players from each squad being selected for the trip to Melbourne.
there weren’t many people in the crowd for the games we watched, but it was still an incredible experience. the talent and skill were way beyond what we were expecting, and it was pretty easy to see that the competitors were having the time of their life.
if any of this is sounding interesting, the story of 6 participants in the 2006 Homeless World Cup has been turned into a documentary called kicking it (in theatres now). we’ll be there later this week …