At first, I thought Street Soccer: New York was almost too slick, like a pure marketing video for Street Soccer USA (SSUSA). SSUSA hosts the US qualifying tournament for the Homeless World Cup. But then I learned how the film came together.
Directors David Murphy and Dan Hedges came across the group from an article in the NY Times. They got to know the players and organization, and then all agreed to be filmed as they competed through rounds of the 2009 Homeless USA Cup. They also followed up with the players the subsequent year.
The tournament format is two 7-minute halves of 4-aside on an enclosed pitch of around 50 ft x 72 ft with 4 ft high goals. With such a compressed format, there is not enough time for everyone to play. The coaches want to win, and the best player stays in, leading some to quit.
Breaking the cycle of homelessness
It’s really not much different than a normal adult team. And that’s what you learn about homeless people–they could be anyone. They are often immigrants, able-bodied but lacking paperwork. Or they grew up homeless in New York, and the key is changing the mindset that accepts the street as a way of life.
But most of the players have been homeless for years and thus lack hope. SSUSA teaches them to get away from despair and stay positive, and then build on self-discipline and a success narrative that gets them out of the shelter. Lawrence Cann, who founded Street Soccer USA in 2004, says:
“We specialize in not giving up”.– Street Soccer USA founder Lawrence Cann
Homeless world cup documentaries are a labor of love
It apparently took several years to finish the movie, and the directors continue to be SSUSA advocates. This is the third film I’ve seen about players trying to get to the Homeless World Cup (the other two were Kicking It and Downtown Dawgs – see my Notes). This film is certainly the most positive of the three and gives the strongest impression that a street soccer program can achieve results. Sport is a development tool for children, so why shouldn’t it work for adults, reasons Lawrence Cann.
One of the most striking background stories is that of Ray Torres, the GK who arrived in 2005 from Spain via Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Salvador, Honduras, and then Mexico. He was smuggled across the border by the Mexican mafia and then worked in a mafia warehouse for 2 years to repay his debt.
Learn more about Street Soccer USA and using sports for social change at http://streetsoccerusa.org
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7