Ever wondered what it’s like to be at the Homeless World Cup? The Street Socceroos coaches are here to take you all the way back to Sacramento with their daily recaps of the tournament.
Thurs 6 July
The international travel day… as expected some things went right and some things went wrong. A hidden passport in a backpack and a check in system not working for an hour or so, and after everyone had some more time to change into team colours, find out who had the lightest bag and do some celebrity spotting.
Then the clearing security rush, the oh yeah we haven’t had brekkie rush, the photos, then plenty of time for the last of the good byes, and pretty much last on the plane. The 14-hour flight that went for lucky 13 hours, well unlucky for those who planned their viewing experience of the latest movies and was left an hour short, pretty smooth flight all things considered.
After a wonderful greeting at the gates, some coffee of course, the jumpers came out, it was cloudy and a bit fresh. Not what anyone was expecting. It was then off to a train ride to Sacramento. Another wonderful greeting at the sign in and it was the summer weather, very warm, sun out and no one was wondering if they had to wear the single jumper for 10 days in a row anymore.
Getting set up in the rooms and some campus orientation followed by some team building at the table tennis and pool table, before relaxing before a quick dinner and an early night. Everyone managing well considering the lack of sleep and time difference. The excitement continues to build to the opening ceremony on Saturday.
Fri 7 July
The settling in day. A relaxing start to the day, a short walk to breakfast with a pretty good spread. After breakfast was a 9.30am training run on the ovals. The sun was out early, and it was warm and some cobwebs were washed out after the long travel day. The team started connecting passes and with each other on the field. We checked out the stadium, had a look at the pitches and Matt had his interview with the Washington Post.
Back for lunch and some recovery time, a dip in the pool, a walk to the shops or the final recovery sleep to get over the last of the jet lag was on the card.
The evening included a traditional American BBQ, and a get together with all the teams for the pool selections with Australia placed in the pool with Chile, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, Germany, and Ukraine. An early night was on the cards with a 6am wake up with the parade and opening ceremony first thing tomorrow.
Sat 8 July
What a day!! The parade to the opening ceremony was a great experience, dancing and singing from the accommodation all the way to the stadium. 31 countries in their national colours enjoying the camaraderie, atmosphere and excitement at the day ahead. There was a few Aussie, Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi on the way with all the teams around joining in!
Matt had the honour of flag bearer for Australia and carried the flag proudly. We met Nick’s dad before the game who came along to support and we welcome our local supporter Preston to the team, who is helping us out for the week.
When we made it to the stadium, with lots of cheers welcoming us, we watched the rest of teams arrive and posed for many photos. With the speeches finished we watched the first two games with the USA women’s and men’s teams playing.
We had a time out before our game in the players lounge and chilled with some music and a chat. After that we found some shade under three Eucalyptus trees, and feeling like we were back home, we warmed up nicely for the game.
On to the oval for the last few practice kicks and warm up saves before taking to the pitch for the national anthem. A very proud moment for all to represent their country and to sing along. We shook hands with the Untied Gospel Mission (UGM) team for the friendly game, very lucky to have another warmup before the competition starts tomorrow and get used to the bounce of the ball on the pitches. The whistle went to start the game and it was on.
The UGM team got off to an early start with the first goal, but we got right back in the game with the next goal. Trading a couple of goals for goal, it was half time. Shortly after half time we took a 6-4 lead. With two minutes to go UGM made it 6-5, and we then we held on for the win.
The play of the day goes to Trenton and Matt, with a perfectly timed pass from Trenton to Matt with the left foot kick to score. Nick was our captain for the game and scored two great goals. Trenton scored one to go with his assist, and Tedial scored two. Caitlin was denied scoring a few times by the tenacious goalkeeper. Oliver held his own on the filed with some great plays, and Bushra ran, and ran and ran, with some great defence work. James, our wall at the back, made some great saves, including stopping a goal by catching the ball between his legs!
Sun 9 July
First day of two games. Both tough oppositions: Ukraine and Poland. Caity captained the first game and exchanged a boomerang for a Ukrainian pendant with the opposition captain. Ukraine dominated the first half, but the Street Socceroos dug deep and came back. Kick started by a goal from Oliver and then Tedial and two from Bushra to give us a 9-4 result.
Second match was captained by Trenton, bolstered by support on the livestream. Poland started strong and again the comeback was started by a goal from Oliver. Two more goals from Nick and Tedial then the crowd erupted when Caity scored her first for the tournament! The Polish team were celebrating her too!
Today eye tests were offered to all the players, which was much appreciated. We waited with the Brazilian team and bridged the language barrier with the common language of soccer shirts. More camaraderie in the pool and on the pool table, then a big dinner catered by local chefs showcasing the locally grown ingredients. Everyone on the grass outside, enjoying the lovely weather. We ended the day with a little training session and an international soccer-volleyball tournament. A full day!
Mon 10 July
First game was against Germany. A great game, Nick, Matt and Bushra with two goals each, Caity scored one and Trenton ended with a goal to end up with a great score of 8-4. There was good sportsmanship on the field, led by captain Tedial who stopped to check on the German goalkeeper who was injured. Caity joined the female German player in celebrating their goals too. Everyone is enjoying the Aussie spirit and wanting pictures with our inflatable kangaroos. Unfortunately one roo has suffered from heat stroke and wilted. Matt did an interview with the local news on the sidelines.
Second game in the heat against Chile, they made us work hard in defence. Jimmy was captain and had some awesome saves, he worked really hard. The second half started well with a cracking goal by Nick. All the talk from both teams on the sidelines post-match was about that goal, the referee presented Nick with his whistle and the linesman called it early for goal of the tournament! But the talk of the commentary box was about Caity and her joyful celebrations of her second goal of the day. After a short cool down in pool, we went into the old part of Sacramento, where the buildings have been preserved in the style of the wild west. We bought some souvenirs and had a big dinner together before heading downtown to the beautiful Capital building. Tomorrow will be hot, so the schedule is moving to evening games, so we’ll have a nice lie in!
Tues 11 July
Morning started with a little lie in and then a workshop about ways to increase female participation in Street Soccer. Chilled out afternoon, lots of pool competitions, learning from trick shot Trenton. The heat peaked at 5pm, sweltering, during our first game at 6.40pm it was still very hot. Lithuania started strong against us, and we tried out a few different tactics. Trenton played both defence and attack and did well in both positions, scoring a good goal. Caity scored again, with her newly famous goal celebration. Matt and Nick also scored. Tedial scored two.
In the gap between games, Nick and Caity both did media interviews and we chatted to lots of American fans who are planning to come over to Australia for the Women’s World Cup soon. We recorded a little message for the Matildas from the team. Watching some other games reminded us of some of our earlier pool playing, with all the tactical bouncing off the barriers. Our last game was at 9pm, so the sun had gone down and we had some well sought after shade. Denmark were strong opponents though. So strong in fact that a shot at goal dislocated Jimmy’s finger! Like a trooper he continued to play and save goals for the second half before gettingsome medical attention. A crowd gathered around in the medical tent as they popped the finger back in and marvelled at his toughness. Tasty burrito bowls for dinner while we sat in the stands and watched some other games. Once we were back in the dorms, we gathered around a screen and watched the replay of the game with the Danes. A late night for all, but we have a bye next. Hoping to set up a friendly game and give Jimmy’s finger a chance to heal.
Wed 12 July
Stage 1 of the tournament came to an end on day five. After six hard fought games the Street Socceroos were placed 6th in Pool C and moved into the second half of the draw for stage two, with three teams in our group H, Union Gospel Mission and Switzerland. The with luck of the draw we had a bye today and with only one round played, a day of relaxation ensued. A bit of retail therapy for the afternoon before a friendly with the Wales team, giving Jimmy sore finger a chance to recover and play up front. And we have a full bag, all eight players have a GOAL!!!!!! Caity continued her now trademarked and internationally recognised goal celebrations and it was an enjoyable relaxing evening. The team ended the day in high spirits with plenty of bonding with other players around the world from the accommodation.
Thurs 13 July
A lie in and a bit of a team bonding session at ten pin bowling. A good chance to rest the feet and enjoy air con and a different contest! Trenton had some good spin shots, and Jimmy narrowly beat George to win! There was good banter and team celebrations.
Again, our first game against United Gospel Mission was in the scorching heat at 6.40pm. The team played hard and won 3-1. Great work from all. Jimmy modified his gloves to accommodate his finger splint and still managed some awesome saves. The second game was the absolute highlight of the tournament so far, very close the whole way through, and had everyone in the stands on edge. Switzerland narrowly beat us 7-6. We went back to the dorms and watched the replays of both matches, with commentary by George. Another late night, but everyone still in good spirits. Nick is now sporting a lightning bolt in his famous mullet, courtesy of the Bulgarian team barber.
Fri 14 July
We took a morning walk in the park with photographer Anita to get some lovely portraits of each player. Everyone had their own personal model style 😊 We then decorated some graduation caps to use in the final ceremony. Then the group split up: some for some rest, some at the shops, and some general sightseeing. Then re-energised we headed back to the stadium for quarter and semifinals. We celebrated Oliver’s birthday and he was made captain for the first game. Team Pakistan gathered and sang to him, and the team collectively gave him a Sacramento t-shirt and card.
Our quarter final match was against United Gospel Mission, who we knew from our very first friendly match (feels like ages ago now!). The team played hard and got a well-deserved win 3-1. The UGM team gave us commemorative coins and towels for each player. We were then presented with the FIFPRO Fair Play Award for our conduct. For this each player was presented with a Sacramento Republic FC soccer ball. They commented on how fairly the team had been coached and how each player had contributed equally to the games. Very proud to have received this recognition.
We then watched some games from the stands before getting ready for our semifinal against Scotland. It was a close and competitive game right the way to the last seconds, the team played with heart and dug deep but the score didn’t go our way. 6-7 in the end. At the end we all sang both the Aussie and Scottish team songs. A late dinner of burrito bowls, which we ate in the stands while watching more games. A late night for all but tried to get as much sleep as possible in preparation for an early final match the next morning!
Sat 15 July
Final day of soccer. An early start after the late night was tough, but the team supported each other well to get ready and energised. Then it was time for the 8am game against Norway. The Street Socceroos gave all that they had and finished on a win 7-3 😊 Again lots of good spirit and examples of fair play. A really impressive way to end.
The next game was Denmark vs Scotland. The Danish goalkeeper had a bad injury, so the team asked if Jimmy could stay and play for them. So he played another full game and helped Denmark to win as well.
We then had the medal ceremony, where Australia got 7th place in the Lassen Park trophy group, so placed 23rd overall. We sweltered in the stands watching two Chile vs Mexico finals (women and then men), and then some presentations and speeches before we retreated to the air con in a nearby building for lunch. Lots of energy with the other teams and exchanging of little koalas and trinkets. Jimmy got a Danish goalkeeper shirt in recognition of his help.
In the evening most teams headed to the state fair and the stadium to watch Sacramento Republic FC play Memphis. The state fair was a fun mix of food stalls, fairground rides and musical performances! The atmosphere in the stands while watching the game was great. Lots of noise and support for Sacremento. At half time there were a few more awards given out to Homeless World Cup teams and the evening ended with fireworks.
Recaps by John Whitehead and Jenny Tracey.
Photos by Anita Milas, John Whitehead and Jenny Tracey.