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Canada at 2010 Homeless World Cup

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Update from Alan Bates, coach of Canada's national homeless team, on Day 6 (Tues 21 Sept):

Hi Street Soccer Canada fans,

Sorry to be a day late again. Our days have been very busy as I'll fill you in on below.

Not only do I have pictures for day 6 for you:


I also have the pictures from day 5:


I ended the last update by letting you know that we were having some interpersonal difficulties on the team the night before our second day of games. We'd had a rough ride against Ireland and the Romanian-Brazilian alliance and we have 8 players and me stuffed into a room that's three quarters the size of an average bedroom. Some conflict was inevitable.

But enough with the excuses. Our morning yesterday can only be described as disgraceful. When the opening whistle went for our morning game against Cambodia, it was clear that we were already in full process of losing. We started losing against Cambodia at about 8pm the night before. Team Cambodia have become good friends of ours. We've cheered for them through their loses and they've cheered for us through ours. They're an easy team to cheer for. They just look like an underdog. Despite their youngest player being 17 and the rest of their team being well over 20, they all look like they're about 12 by Canadian body-structure and size standards. By the time we played them, we'd already seen them get pushed around and generally pasted by two other teams. I think our team was ready to play a team that would surely lose to the old-ladies home, let alone a bunch of big bad guys from the hood in Vancity. We were ready for sure glory. Instead, the ball was in our net within the first three seconds. The game pretty much continued along those lines. I didn't recognize our team out there. We didn't get back to defend, we didn't attack as a team, we didn't communicate at all, and we got out-muscled and out-classed by a Cambodian team that deserves credit for bringing their A-game against us. Goals by Jeremy Isaac and Peter Chow were too little too late.

After every game, we meet as a team on the beach to talk about what went right and what went wrong. The players speak first and then Daniel Errey and I summarize what we agree with and make the points we want to add. Usually, I try to be pretty positive and I don't anger easily. I didn't have anything good to say about our game. I did have strong opinions on how our poor conduct the night before had lead to our abysmal performance and I didn't hold back on sharing them with the team. And if they hadn't really got the message from me, they sure had by the time team organizer extraordinaire Kalin See had translated my words into the players' more familiar Downtown Eastside dialect.

The post-game discussion prompted co-captain Patrick Oleman to call a players-only meeting. The players had their meeting while all the volunteers also got together to talk about how things were going and how to optimize all the organization. I don't know what was said in the players-only meeting, but they came away from it a different team. Despite not being the source of any of the conflict, Richard Mountain came back from the meeting with his teammates to offer a heartfelt apology on behalf of the team for letting down all the people supporting us back in Canada. The rest of the team seemed equally convinced they had a new direction.

We had a great warm-up for our game against Mexico. The team had new determination. I was wishing that we were playing a team that would allow this new attitude to translate into a win. Based on their easy victory over Ireland who creamed us 17-1, I figured we would need a miracle to beat Mexico. In the end, a win wasn't necessary for us to get all the satisfaction we needed out of the game. We played amazing. Coming hard right out of the gates, we actually went up 1-0 and spent most of the first half losing by scores of only 2-1 or 3-2 (after goals by Robert Milton and Peter Chow). We were on fire. Everyone was getting back to defend and we were attacking with enough pressure to let the Mexicans know they had a real game on their hands. The MVP performance was definitely by goalkeeper Randy Comiso who probably put on the best performance by a Canadian keeper in an international game ever (Craig who?). The Mexicans can really shoot and Randy was getting a piece of everything. Unfortunately, he got too small a piece of one particularly hard shot and had to leave the game with a bad thumb sprain that required a trip to the hospital. For a great account of the Canada-Mexico game see: http://www.homelessworldcup.org/news/canada-2-11-mexico .

We were really proud of our performance against Mexico and fortunately there were some great things planned for the players that evening that were fitting celebrations. While Randy and I made a trip to the hospital, the rest of the team went to see the Christ the Redeemer statue up close. They all described it as an incredible experience. After getting back from the hospital, Randy and I were able to join everyone else for a full-moon gondola ride up to the top of Sugar Loaf. The views of the lights spreading around and sprawling up the hills of Rio were awesome. We started the day on a bad note, but definitely ended on the right one.

In case you're curious about the hospital, I'll describe it briefly. When we pulled up to Miguel Couto public hospital, we found the front steps full of people who were apparently waiting to get into Emergency. The "triage" system seemed to consist of a large security guard who eyed each new person and either let them in or told them to wait on the steps. He let Randy and our interpreter in, but wouldn't let me come in with them. So I spent a couple hours trying to figure out the system for the people on the steps. I never did. In the end, Randy didn't have to wait much longer than he would at a Canadian hospital. He did have to wait in several long lineups though. The good news was that there were no fractures and by today he is already able to move the thumb quite well.

Time for some sleep.

Thanks for your support.


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Update from Alan Bates, coach of Canada's national homeless team, on Day 7 (Wed 22 Sept):

Hi Street Soccer Canada fans,

I'm still running a day late.

We participated in three great soccer games on day 7. The first was our game against New Zealand. Similar to how the majority of our team is First Nations, the majority of the players on Team New Zealand are Maori. They're big and they really throw their weight around. They also have at least one player who seems to be experiencing some psychosis at the tournament. A couple of days ago, I was just standing around and he started to yell at me "What's your problem?!", "What do you want man, what's your problem?!". There were several possible answers to those questions, but I don't think any were what he was looking for. Fortunately, none of our players who have a history of psychotic episodes have experienced those kind of symptoms on our trip (as far as I know anyways).

Early in the game, I was worried that we would lose our cool against the repeated pushing fouls (some uncalled) that were being dished out by the very physical Kiwis. My worries faded away as incident after incident ended with our guys just getting up and continuing on with the play. A few months ago, at least one of our guys would get right up in your grill if you even looked at him funny. I was really proud to see such good discipline from our whole team. It paid off when a New Zealand player eventually received a blue card (which results in a two-minute penalty similar to in hockey) for overly aggressive play and we capitalized on the man advantage. But really, by that time we already had the game well in hand.

Just like we started losing the game against Cambodia the night before, we started winning the New Zealand game when we came out flying against Mexico. It turned out Richard Mountain wasn't done sending a message after addressing our fans after the Cambodia game. Matching words with action, he lead the team's offence with a well deserved hat-trick. We also found offensive production from Robert Milton with a pair of goals himself and one each from Peter Chow and Randy Comiso (while sporting a bandaged thumb from his injury against Mexico) to propel us to a comfortable 7-3 win. The team has a pretty positive attitude even after most loses, but it was really nice to get a W.

Our second game of the day was against Hungary. I was again impressed with our play and it was a tight game the whole way through. The eventual 6-1 scoreline flattered the Hungarians. The better team won, but I'm sure we would take a game or two against them in a best of seven series. Our goal came from the reliable right boot of Peter Chow and I couldn't really fault our play in any particular area.

That night, we jumped on an opportunity to go see some Brazilian football. We joined Botafogo's boisterous fans in a classic battle against Vasco and their supporters at the other end of the pitch. The fans put on an amazing spectacle. As I was watching huge flags waving, toilet paper streamers cascading onto the field and balloons being inflated with unending chanting and drumming, I turned around to realize that a soccer game had also started sometime after our arrival. Vasco controlled the majority of the play throughout the first half, but Botafogo came on in the second and eventually squeaked out a 2-2 draw on a penalty in the final minute. The fans were ecstatic with the comeback tie and nothing celebrates a great result like setting off flash grenades on the pedestrian ramps that lead out of the stadium.

So, another great day of soccer with more on the way.

Thanks for your support.


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Update from Alan Bates, coach of Canada's national homeless team, on Day 8 (Thurs 23 Sept):

Hi Street Soccer Canada fans,

I've fallen even further behind with these updates. A lot happens in a day for some of our guys, even when they're not participating in a soccer tournament in Rio.

Every morning as we leave the hostel, we gather in a circle and someone says something about Canada before we do a 1-2-3-Canada! cheer. You might not have guessed that some of our players are really into the History Channel. Things shared in our morning ritual have included Billy Bishop shooting down the Red Baron, Canadians figuring out how to deal with mustard gas, and German POWs being well-treated (apparently with steak dinners?) in Eastern Canada during WWII. Although these are all related to conflicts with Germany, one of our players also told me that he really likes Germans and feels that of all the European cultures, theirs is most like his own First Nations culture. I didn't get a lot of details, but there must be a Sociology thesis there somewhere.

Day 8 was relatively uneventful from a soccer point of view. We only had one game and I feel like there's not a lot to say about it. Either that or I'm too tired to remember details. We played Finland, didn't score, and got scored on a lot. We didn't have a bad game, they were just a better team and we didn't get any bounces. I've got to emphasize again how good the guys have been at just accepting very lopsided games like this, keeping a positive attitude and moving on.

The highlight of the day came off the pitch with our ride on the Santa Teresa streetcar. It only costs 60 cents (or whatever they're called here) for an amazing 40-or-so minute trip. After a section of elevated track that makes it feel like you're slowly floating (in a clunky kind of way) over the city in a streetcar, the tracks wind up narrow curving roads. The scenery includes restaurants, homes, and very impressive street art/graffiti. In addition to the paying customers, scores of kids hop on and off all the way up, barely missing telephone poles and buses going the other way as they hang from the side. Of course, our players couldn't miss out on that kind of reckless fun so they also had a go at barely avoiding utility poles and side-mirrors. We've spent a lot of time near the tournament venue in Copacabana and this felt like a much more genuine part of the city. After the streetcar trip, the Theatro Municipal was also really spectacular at night with lights coming through all the stained-glass windows.

Hopefully, I'll be able to catch up on the updates tomorrow.

Thanks for your support,


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More photos from Wed 22 Sept (the day Canada got their first win, against New Zealand):



Photos from Sat 25 Sept (final day of matches, tour of Rio de Janiero's "favela" shanty towns, and capoeira lesson):



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Update from Alan Bates, coach of Canada's national homeless team, on Day 9 (Fri 24 Sept):

Hi Street Soccer Canada fans,

Well, today is our last day here in Rio. A lot has happened over the last three days so I'll try to get you caught up before we have to leave for the airport.

For pictures from a triumphant Day 9, see:


I knew Day 9 was going to go well when we actually left the hostel on time. After our Canada cheer and a quick trip on the Metro, we arrived at the Mellow Yellow hostel for breakfast. The meals there have been really good. Breakfast has generally been cheese, ham, eggs, and hotdog slices in somekind of sauce. Hotdogs in tomato sauce seems to be the classic version, but you wouldn't believe how many different delicious hotdog concoctions there can be (for dinner as well as breakfast). Our hostel serves a slightly less refined version of the hotdogs in tomato sauce, so we generally made the trip to Mellow Yellow for the higher quality version.

Our first game of the day was against Switzerland. I'd scouted them a bit over the first few days of the tournament and they'd had some nice results: 7-1 over Greece, a win on penalties after a 3-3 tie with Hungary (who beat us 6-1), and 12-1 against New Zealand. I thought we could play with them though. Taking a page right out of the Coach's Corner playbook, I used our pre-game huddle to ask the guys if they knew why we didn't have names on the back of our jerseys (true answer is that we didn't know who all the players were going to be before they made the jerseys). Don Cherry-esque answer I gave the guys: Because you don't play for the name on the back, you play for the crest on the front. That got a combination of cheers and laughter and I don't know if it helped or not, but it was fun to say.

Whether because of the Don Cherry-like address, the tomato sauce slathered hotdog bits or some other unknown variable, we came out flying against the Swiss. Our team defence was even better than it was against Mexico. Every time we lost the ball in the other team's end, someone was right back to put an end to any Swiss opportunism. We were sacrificing the body as shot after Swiss shot was blocked in one fashion or another. There were some rockets that got through our defence, but they would only get so far. With his performance of the week and one that would redefine his level of play for the rest of the tournament, keeper Kevin King stepped it up big time. He was hitting the deck, stacking the pads, flailing out arms, whatever was needed. Switzerland would manage only one goal against him. Unfortunately, the Swiss defence was equally resolute.

In close games like this, you always look to the character players. Having already secured our first win with a hat-trick, Richard Mountain left nothing to chance when he unleashed an unfaltering one-timer from the left side of the net that would send us into sudden-death penalties. With his previoius penalty performance fresh in my memory, it was an easy decision to give Robert Milton the nod for our first shot. It was a decision that wouldn't be second-guessed as he answered the call by putting it in the upstairs left corner where mother keeps the Toblerones. In the only ending that could do justice to his performance throughout the whole game, Kevin King then came out to the top of the crease, made himself big and gobbled up Switzerland's only chance to keep the competition alive.

We were ecstatic with our second win of the tournament. It could be argued that New Zealand was a team we should have beat, but this was different. If I knew who any of the Swiss guys were, I think I'd be able to say they have a more skilled team on paper than we do. It was a real gutsy performance with a deserved result. Between games, we celebrated our big win with refreshments at one of the boardwalk kiosks and even did a little congo-line dancing when some musicians stopped by provide some entertainment and take an unreasonable amount of our money.

Our second game of the day was against India. In a familiar pattern, we played another good game against a team that was just a few steps ahead of us in skill and experience. Jeremy Isaac continued his good form with a couple of goals to keep things interesting in an 8-2 loss.

Having taken care of business at the tournament, it was time to hit the beach in Ipanema. We jumped through huge waves, played some football with the locals, caught some rays, and bought some ridiculous items from the roaming beach vendors. Ipanema was followed up by a veritable feast of a selection of fine meats and other delicacies courtesy of Paul Gregory, the head of Street Soccer Canada.

We then retreated to the hostel to get ready for a night out in Lapa. Lapa is a party district filled with restaurants, bars and clubs. The guys were looking pretty stylin' and we had a fun time wandering through the festive crowds. In the end though, that environment proved a bit too much for a couple of the guys and we cut the night a little early. We needed to re-focus for Hong Kong in the morning.

Thanks for your support,


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Update from Alan Bates, coach of Canada's national homeless team, on Day 10 (Sat 25 Sept):

Hi Street Soccer Canada fans,

This update is coming to you from the airspace between Winnipeg and Minneapolis as Team Canada flies on the last leg of our trip home. There are still two days of Homeless World Cup excitement that I haven't chronicled for you, so here's Day 10.

As always, Day 10 comes with a selection of Sarah Blyth's great pictures of the team and their growing global community of friends and fans:


I forgot to mention in the Day 9 update that there was good news and bad news related to our victory over Switzerland. The good news was that it propeled us into a higher division for the playoff round of the tournament. The bad news was that it propeled us into a higher division for the playoff round of the tournament. The tournament had three rounds. For the first, each team ends up with a random selection of opponents as determined by a draw (Ireland, Romania, Cambodia, and Mexico for us). For the second round, teams are divided into a top half and a bottom half based on results (we were in the bottom half) and then teams are put into groups with only teams from their half who they have not yet played (we got New Zealand, Hungary, Finland, and Switzerland). For the final Cup round, there are are 6 trophies that teams compete for. The best 8 teams compete for the Homeless World Cup, the next 8 teams compete for another trophy, the next 8 for another trophy, etc. Beating New Zealand and Switzerland caused us to bid adieu to the cellar dwellers and move up into the Community Cup competition against India, Hong Kong, Sweden, Argentina, Switzerland, Greece, and our old friends Cambodia. With soccer superpower Argentina, tough previous opponent Switzerland, and an excellent Hong Kong and Sweden teams that I was surprised were in one of the lower cups, it was a group that we could be proud members of. As described in the Day 9 update, India was our first tough opponent in the quarterfinals and they dispatched us to the lower half of the Community Cup competition.

Hong Kong had a really good team including a very acrobatic keeper, so we were surprised to be playing them in our first game on Day 10. Everyone was excited to play Hong Kong. There are obviously lots of connections between Vancouver and Hong Kong and there was definitely an atmosphere that this was a special game for players and coaches on both teams. Many teams give somekind of gift to the team they're playing before each match. We gave a set of Canada pins to each team. Hong Kong gave us a t-shirt and some festive-looking Chinese decorations. From the opening whistle, it seemed like we were again on top form. Our defensive tenacity was reminiscent of our game against Switzerland. We also had our share of chances, but Hong Kong's keeper had (sometimes spectacular) answers for everything we launched at him. Continuing his excellent play, Canadian keeper Kevin King wasn't to be outplayed as Hong Kong only scored once during regular play. They added a penalty marker that resulted from a miscommunication between our D and our keep for a tight 2-0 win. It was easy to hold our heads high after what was a great result against a very good team.

After nine games, our fate was limited to either 7th or 8th place in the Community Cup and 39th or 40th place in the whole tournament. Standing between us and that coveted 39th spot... Cambodia. The Cambodians were the perfect matchup to end the tournament with. As our neighbours in the hostel next door, they had become very good friends of ours. The language barrier was easily toppled by good spirit and a common understanding of what the Homeless World Cup is all about. This was also true for our interactions with other teams. Smiles, high-fives, cool handshakes, soccer ball juggling, laughter, and hugs are pretty universal. In addition to the friendship factor, the Cambodians were also the one team that we all felt we hadn't played to our potential against. We just didn't show up that morning. So, we couldn't wait for a chance to redeem ourselves.

For some reason, we weren't a good defensive matchup against the Cambodian attack, despite a good effort. I think they scored the same number of goals against us as they did in our first meeting. However, the game was close most of the way and there was a completely different feel to the game. One main difference is that we were relentless in counter-attack. Threatening in every game throughout the tournament, Jeremy Isaac scored to bring his tournament total to six. As if one goal-machine wasn't enough, Peter Chow scored twice to equal Jeremy's team-leading finishing. The third man to work the scorekeeper was Frank Studdhorse who put his shot well out of reach of the Cambodian keeper to bring the number of different outfield players on the team to score during the tournament to six out of a possible seven. Frank's goal was followed by a big grin for which, in addition to the abilitly to work the statement "Sandwich!" into any conversation, he has become globally known. The only non-keeper who didn't score in the tournament was co-captain Patrick Oleman, which is surprising given the quality of his shot that he's been perfecting for months. It's not like he didn't contribute offensively though. Like Gretzky, Patrick's primary contribution moving up the field is play making. Add this to his ferocious defence and leadership on and off the field and there's no mystery why I started him on the pitch for all 10 games. Although we played Cambodia to a similar scoreline as in our first encounter, we were proud of our play. Any real sports fan will tell you that the same score does not mean the same game.

Two great games were followed by an experience of a lifetime. One of the volunteers at the tournament was a man named Zezinho who has the chaotic architecture of Rocinha Favela tattooed all over his body. Zezinho lives in Rocinha, but also lived in Canada (spending time in Toronto and Vancouver) for four years and has a love of hockey. He took an immediate liking to our team and was eager to give us a tour of Rocinha. He actually has a business (Favela Adventures; http://favelatour.org/) doing this for tourists from around the world. Rocinha is the largest favela in South America with over 300,000 inhabitants.

The chaos of the favela makes it a really beautiful place. Homes are stacked on top of each other up the side of the mountain. "Sidewalks" change form and height in front of every building. Businesses range from mechanics to beauty salons to dentists to restaurants to convenience stores. Motorcycles (many part of a taxi service) race up and down the winding roads. Electrical wires make unbelievable tangles at every makeshift utility pole. We took a small bus up to near the top of the favela and went to a large building that looked like a combination between an airplane hanger, a nightclub, a shed and an indoor soccer pitch. There, we had a great game against some kids who generally had an easier time against us than Ireland did. We all played barefoot and that definitely takes some rapid callous growth to get used to. After the game, we made our way to a rooftop with spectacular views of the entire favela with the skyscrapers of Rio and a large golf course as the ironic backdrop. Again, the random structure of the favela is surprisingly beautiful. We then made our way down some alleys between homes that are an incredible labyrinth to a place where we had a great chicken dinner. It cost 25 Reais (about $15) for about 15 people. In the rest of Rio, it would have been that price for each meal. Our next stop was Zezinho's apartment where we were treated to a small fireworks display from somewhere else in the favela while we sat on his roof.

On our way down the rest of the hill we had another "unique" experience which was passing a large group of members of Rocinha's drug gang. In the middle of restaurants, shops, and people going about their daily business, including a little girl with a bubble-making toy, there were 15 to 20 guys with assault rifles/machine guns. Some of them were on motorcycles, some were just standing around, and some were taking cover behind poles and pointing their weapons up the hill as if they, us and the bubble-blowing girl were under heavy fire. My understanding is that favelas are generally under the control of either a drug gang, a militia that extorts money from the businesses or the police, and that residents much prefer the drug gangs to the other two possibilities.

Our tour of the favela ended with us coming across a Capoeira demonstration at the bottom of the hill. Having trained in several different martial arts including Capoeira, Daniel Errey had a go at partnering up with one of the locals. He didn't look out of place and the local group had fun dancing with/facing off against him.

An interesting thing about our trip to the favela was that the experience was lost on a few of our guys. Most had a great time and learned a lot, but a few simply had no interest in being there. One player had to be taken back to the hostel at the very start of the tour because he was tired and anxious. Another could not understand why we would want to be in such a terrible place, a thought that many likely have about the Downtown Eastside. The lesson for me was that despite unbelievable poverty in the favela, the average kid there has far fewer problems in life than what people with addictions, developmental disabilities, and severe mental illness face no matter where they are.

As a final update, I'll tell you about Day 11 and the closing ceremonies.

Thanks for your support,


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