Woes kicked to kerb on the streets of hope

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

‘‘ EV­ERY­THING in life is hard. You al­ways get curve balls thrown at you, or span­ners. But if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.’’

Th­ese are the op­ti­mistic words of Ro­han, a 22-year-old who has been a streetie — a home­less per­son who lives on the street — for four years. He is just one of a range of in­spir­ing char­ac­ters you will meet in this en­gag­ing doc­u­men­tary about the as­pi­ra­tions of a soc­cer team.

Nat­u­rally, this is no or­di­nary soc­cer team. The Aus­tralian Street Soc­ceroos con­sists of peo­ple de­ter­mined to get their lives back on track. How each of them ar­rived at the po­si­tion of home­less­ness is heart­break­ing, the en­ergy they find for the game, and their determination to over­come their predica­ment, in­spir­ing.

It all be­gan in 2003, when The Big Is­sue , an in­ter­na­tional char­ity as well as pub­lisher of the well-known street mag, set up an event called the Home­less World Cup. The aim was to raise aware­ness of poverty and home­less­ness across the world through the pro­mo­tion of street soc­cer.

But who gets into the Aus­tralian Street Soc­ceroos? This doc­u­men­tary fo­cuses on Kevin, Ro­han, broth­ers Alex and Elmo, and Ste­vie for six months as they com­pete for a place in the team, and the sub­se­quent chance to rep­re­sent their coun­try in the Home­less World Cup.

Doc­u­men­taries about the dis­ad­van­taged find­ing in­spi­ra­tion, even sal­va­tion, through up­lift­ing group ac­tiv­i­ties are not without prece­dent. The Choir of Hard Knocks , first broad­cast in 2007 on ABC1, fol­lowed the for­ma­tion of home­less and dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple into a choir whose artis­tic tri­umphs in­cluded a per­for­mance at the Syd­ney Opera House

Play­ing rough: Cel­e­brat­ing a goal for the Aus­tralian Street Soc­ceroos and the release of a CD that, to date, has sold more than 100,000 copies.

And on Oc­to­ber 16, 2008, Play­ing in the Shad­ows , a film about giv­ing di­rec­tion­less and dis­ad­van­taged in­ner-city Syd­ney peo­ple a com­mon pur­pose through bas­ket­ball, was aired, also on ABC1.

So it’s great to see Net­work Ten get­ting into the spirit. On the Ball is el­e­gantly pro­duced, and post­pro­duc­tion tech­niques such as the in­ser­tion of haunt­ing mu­sic over open-hearted speeches to cam­era by the play­ers, en­hance without over­whelm­ing the ma­te­rial.

Of course, no doc­u­men­tary about sport would be com­plete without cham­pi­ons giv­ing their all, without com­pet­i­tive en­ergy and nail-bit­ing play-offs. The state tri­als here are gru­elling and, of course, not every­one pro­filed is go­ing to make it into the na­tional team.

The strug­gle makes for en­gag­ing tele­vi­sion. There are highs and lows, con­fronta­tions and al­ter­ca­tions, laughs and a few tears. But there isn’t a viewer out there who won’t get an in­sight into home­less­ness, and the raw determination and courage that peo­ple too eas­ily writ­ten off by so­ci­ety can pos­sess.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

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