Woes kicked to kerb on the streets of hope
‘‘ 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.