Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Philippine Homeless World Cup Team: Dateline Melbourne I

As reported by my friend Bill Shaw in Australia. November 29, 2008.

In Melbourne the Homeless world Cup is gaining momentum as the teams from around the world began to arrive. Team Philippines stepped off the plane as the 5th team in the country. By Sunday it will be one of 56 nations here, to play football, to bring attention to the issues of homeless people and to see the lives of the players changed.

The team has a new focus. A medal for Marlon. Seventeen year old Marlon Lagundino, the youngest player on the Philippine squad and the team goalie has an infected right hand. He was hospitalized Wednesday night. His hand was operated on Thursday. The doctors have stated that it would be dangerous for him to travel at this time.

Coach Marlon Maro expressed concern. “The first time I heard it I was worried. We lose the number one position on the team when we lose our goalie. We have switched Ricky to goal, but he has had not had the training, preparation time or game experience.”

“We cannot replace Marlon.” Coach Marlon added. “The aggressiveness he has shown is very important, We will miss him.”

William Shaw representing Urban Opportunities for Change, the foundation organizing the Philippine squad said. “When we first picked the team, the players didn’t believe in the reality of traveling to Melbourne. They liked the idea, but would not allow themselves to hope something this wonderful could happen to them. Gradually they began to believe in us and more importantly to dream bigger things for their lives. Losing Marlon just before the culmination of those dreams is very hard. We are all praying for him.”

“The team is concentrating on maintaining focus and preparing for December one and the first games.” Said Coach Marlon.

The team had a light practice Friday afternoon at Mitcham Baptist Church. The church has opened up their youth drop-in center and indoor soccer pitch to the Philippine team.

Sunday evening drawings will be held to place the teams in eight divisions of six teams. Team Philippines will play each team in its division one time. Depending on placement the teams will advance to their respective qualifying rounds.

The players are confronting the outside world for the first time. They were amazed in the airplane, at the terminals, the cool weather, which has hovered just above 15 degrees and the empty clean streets.

“Where are the people?” Nina and Russel wondered.

The Philippine Homeless World Cup team has made it to Melbourne. It is facing long odds, but long odds are what make this team special. They have grown up with long odds and right now every ball they kick, every person they meet, every site they see, is a win. Go Philippines. We love you Marlon.

More and more Deb and I are feeling privileged to be part of the Philippine Homeless World Cup team and the HWC tournament. There are not words that describe aptly what this opportunity gives to the participants of these games. For our team it has given education, hope, relationship, joy and trust, all things that being homeless take away.

Daily the team is preparing for the games, that will start December 1. We are waiting impatiently for the opening ceremonies and the “draw” that will take place Sunday night, but as the organizers and the coaches, we are also using this time to provide a window to the beauty of this world. We want this team to take home a great football experience, but we also want them to take home a lasting vision for their country and for their lives.

Saturday we experienced the wallabies, the Big Red kangaroos, Koala bears, and the little blues. We had been threatening to put Nina in a Kangaroo pocket, and it was with wonder when she saw there really was a pocket and a baby kangaroo inside. I watched our players, from the institutions of Manila, stand with birds on their heads, and feed with wonder animals they had not known existed.

The weather has been cold and it was colder still when we ventured to Philip Island and sat looking into the vast Antarctic to the South. We didn’t look like a football team as we sat bundled in coats and blankets on the sand, watching the waves crash in and waiting for the little blue penguins to surf in and trek up the beach to their burrows in the dunes behind us.

This is the Homeless World Cup and this is the reason we are here, to give opportunity and raise awareness. I can think of no better use of the money our sponsors have given than the first two days we have spent in Australia. The team is loose. The team is united. The team has hope for the future. The team is proud to be Filipino and proud to represent their country. All I can say is thank God we are here.

Two pictures above is our National team with the members of the England squad. Directly above is with Team Argentina.

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