Homing in on world cup in Melbourne
Many people choose to ignore them on the street.
But a group of Auckland’s transient population are focused on doing their country proud at the Homeless World Cup in Melbourne next month.
The team consists of five players from the Auckland region and three from Wellington, with four players on the field at any one time.
Team member Everitt Johnson says going to the tournament is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
“I’m proud of who I am and what I represent. It’s given me a sense of purpose and helped me refocus my life.”
Members of the team were selected for their ball skills as well as their commitment to the side and ability to travel.
After the tournament Mr Johnson, who says personal issues saw him end up on the street, has a number of long-term goals he’d like to pursue.
“Beyond the world cup I’d like to continue at university.
“I did two-and-a-halfyears in film, TV and media studies.”
Finding a permanent place to live and possibly moving to Australia are other changes the 40-year- old says he would like to make.
But right now it’s all about football. “Soccer and the team comes first.
“That’s my short-term goal, then I’ll look at the wider picture.”
The Homeless World Cup is now in its sixth year, but this is the first year New Zealand will send a team.
Teams from 56 countries descend on Melbourne for the event, which runs from December 1 to 7.
Mr Johnson says while the team doesn’t know what calibre of player they’ll be up against, he is upbeat about their chances.
“If we plan well we could go all the way to the top.”
Lifewise, which provides support services for those in need, decided to get a team together after hearing about the positive changes people who have attended past tournaments had made.
“When I discovered there was no Kiwi team I started working with the guys. I wanted to get something going at the centre that involved sport and activity,” says support worker and team organiser Steve McLuckie.
Seventy-three percent of those who have attended the tournament in the past have made positive steps, including getting treatment for drug and alcohol dependency, reuniting with family or finding a permanent place to stay, says Mr McLuckie.
While the Melbourne trip has been paid for, fundraising for the 2009 Homeless World Cup in Milan has already begun.
A screening of the documentary Kicking It, which follows seven players from the 2006 tournament, will be held on Tuesday at the Academy Cinema, Lorne St, from 6pm.
Tickets are $25 with light refreshments. Call 302-5390 for more information.
Life changing: Auckland Homeless World Cup players Marcel, Norman, Everitt Johnson and John will compete in the tournament in Melbourne next month.