Hom­ing in on world cup in Mel­bourne

Central Leader - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

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.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Life chang­ing: Auck­land Home­less World Cup play­ers Marcel, Nor­man, Everitt John­son and John will com­pete in the tour­na­ment in Mel­bourne next month.

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