Whitecaps Players Raise Homeless World Cup Awareness

We’ve been critical before of the Whitecaps lack of community presence, especially when compared to their expansion peers and Cascadian rivals, Portland Timbers.

It’s still far from great, with corporate functions and appearances seemingly taking precedence to being out and about at grass roots and community projects, being seen to encourage making a difference.

The last couple of weeks though, it’s been good to see some of the players getting out there and working closely with the Canadian homeless football team, as they prepare to head out to France for the 2011 Homeless World Cup.
Last week, a number of players turned out to train with the homeless players at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside.

Last night, Whitecaps Captain Jay DeMerit and four of his fellow players – Jeb Brovsky, Bilal Duckett, Jonathan Leathers and Shea Salinas – headed out to the send off at PHS Community Services Society’s Life Skills Centre on East Cordova Street.

Five men and eight women from BC will be heading out to Paris for the World Cup and the Caps players wanted to be there to send them off with the team’s well wishes and encouragement.

Apt really that Major League Soccer’s down and outs are attending a homeless event. Maybe the Canadian homeless team can come back from France with some silverware and show their more affluent peers how it’s done.

The 2011 Homeless World Cup will be the 9th annual tournament since the inaugural one in Graz, Austria in 2003, with 48 nations taking part this time around in the Men’s event and 16 in the Womens.

This year’s numbers have shown how much the tournament has grown since the 18 countries taking part in year one.

It is also a good way at showcasing what a global problem homelessness is and it does make you wonder how much better other countries are at dealing with the problem than the poor attempts we make here in Canada.

To be eligible, players must:

– Be male or female and at least 16 years old at the time of the tournament
– Have been homeless at some point after the previous year’s World Cup OR
– Make their main living income as a streetpaper vendor OR
– Be asylum seekers (who have neither positive asylum status nor working permit)

Games are 4-a-side, with three outfield players, a goalkeeper and four rolling subs, and they are played as two seven minute halves.

For the World Cup games, there has to be a winner in each match, with a penalty shoot-out deciding any games that have ended square at the end of the 14 minutes of play. Winners of shoot-outs get three points and the losing team, one.

The eight British Columbians will do Canada proud, no matter what happens on the pitch. Just getting there is a huge achievement for these guys and girls.

We at AFTN wish them all the very best and we will be having updates on the blog and on our Twitter account.

You can also follow everything that’s happening at the Champs de Mars in Paris, and find out more about the history of the tournament and the causes behind it, at the Official Homeless World Cup website.

It was great to see the encouragement shown by the Whitecaps for the team.

As we covered in the earlier article, Portland have left Vancouver behind when it comes to community interaction (along with a lot of other things). Hopefully these appearances will be the start of a lot more community appearances from the Whitecaps, especially in the close season.

They don’t want us to just think that all they care about is big business and making money after all.

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Authored by: Michael McColl

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