As you may have noticed I’ve been on a wee bit of a break for the past week and I haven’t posted since my rather emotional birthday letter to a certain blogger who was celebrating her 21st birthday last Tuesday. Yes I do mean you Jessica Lauren Hatcher.
To say a lot has happened in the intervening days would I think be an understatement. So bearing that in mind I’ve decided not to bother saying things that have already been said on Theresa May’s ascension in to Number 10, far less the barbaric attack on the innocent citizens of Nice, or the attempted military coup in Turkey. Though tartan tights is by nature a topical blog, it is I think appropriate on this occasion to leave the bad news for others to comment on and focus on one of most heartwarming events I have ever attended the 2016 Homeless World Cup which was held in Glasgow from the 10th to the 16th of July.
It’s an oft repeated phrase that sport brings people together and to me this was never more accurate than it was during this week long football marathon in which 64 teams from 52 countries competed for both male and female versions of the world’s most famous sporting trophy
To capture the amazing atmosphere and spirit which shone in our city’s main square during the past will take more than post so I thought I would write one for the qualifying rounds and another to paint my personal picture of the magic of finals day.
Though I would have loved to attend every day reality meant this just wasn’t possible and I missed the opening ceremony which I have to say is my biggest regret of the tournament especially when I heard later that it was a carnival of colour which could easily have put the west end festival to shame. This is not easy but believe me I heard it was a spectacular occasion truly befitting of my home city.
As for the tournament itself Scotland may have been the last team to enter the arena but as hosts they were first on to the pitch and and they opened the World Cup in style by beating Hong Kong 11-1. Alas this was not to be Scotland’s year and by the time I made my first trip to the tournament on Wednesday evening it was obvious that brave though there hearts may have been their legs weren’t quite up to facing teams whose players were 10 to 15 years younger.
My first match was Brazil V Bulgaria (see picture below ) which was won 7-2 by the Brazilians who treated us to some samba soccer in the square on a glorious Wednesday night but whose defence showed some frailties which better teams would exploit.
My next stop was South Korea V Wales which was followed by Germany V Belgium both are pictured below and the later was one of the most entertaining games of the week with goals flying in from all angles with one of the Belgian strikes being of particularly stunning quality.
South Korea V Wales
Germany V Belgium
At this point I decided to take a walk round the venue and meet some of the players and support team who had brought their skills and enthusiasm to put a smile on a Glasgow summer.
It was during my wandering that I was warmly greeted by one of Scotland’s women’s team Courtney Lynn. You see I know Courtney from a different environment which is located around ten minutes from the square. I refer to Glasgow’s hidden gem that is the Blue Chair Cafe where Courtney and I are often found amongst the regulars for the Wednesday night open mic where I perform my poems and Courtney is known to treat us to a song or two.
With me being in a chatty mood I decided to talk to a couple of the stewards who were only too happy to share their stories of how the event had unfolded and pose for a picture with the coach of Namibia for me.
For a competitive tournament and believe me it was fiercely competitive, it has to be said that there was an atmosphere of friendship throughout the event. At a time when many sports stars are viewed perhaps unfairly as overpaid prima donnas this was good to see but I think this particular group of footballers who have had to endure many hardships have can do attitude to sport because having faced prejudice and social exclusion they know the truth of what is printed on the t-shirts and that to me sums up what the homeless world cup is all about.
On walking past the support stall I saw someone I thought I knew and had to do a double take before I realised it wasn’t my fellow poet Sam Small but a very friendly lookalike called Tyler who was advised by yours truly to Google his poetic lookalike and be happy he was paid such a compliment.
Next up on my personal tour of the world were a fine group of lads from Northern Ireland. This lot were a very friendly bunch who represented their country brilliantly both on the field and off it and were great ambassadors for the tournament. This picture shows the lads happy and relaxed and in a very positive frame of mind.
Not content with a team picture these lads insisted that I joined them for a selfie and since I melt at an Irish accent this was an offer I wasn’t going to turn down.
After this I stuck with African teams and managed to get a close up of this handsome lad from the Ivory Coast. This was a particularly pleasing shot to get as his team had just a thrilling game to the Netherlands and many players would not have been in the mood to pose for photographs in such circumstances.
After this it was turn of the Romanian players to pose for the camera and they were in confident mood though they said their English wasn’t good. I joked that living in the East End of Glasgow my English wasn’t perfect either. Now I don’t know why but this joke seemed to work and put them at their ease.
After this photograph was taken my next shot was of a man who spends his time his time stopping them, and the Polish goalie cut a fine figure in this little number. It’s my guess that his country went for this choice because it would startle opponents in to missing what we in Scotland call sitters and therefore give his country a better chance of qualifying for the knock out stages of the competition.
In my next picture I got an action shot of Austrian substitutes watching their game against Cambodia as they patiently waited for their moment.
Our Bosnian friends shown in this photograph capture the very essence of team spirit with a look says togetherness and determination will always be part of this team and since they had just come off the back of a very positive result I think this was a good time to get a shot of them.
If the Bosnians were happy the same can said of the Norwegians in this picture and having just come off the pitch after an 8-2 win over Slovenia I think their smiles tell me they may have been in the mood to party.
My next picture has to be one of my personal highlights not only of the evening but of the entire tournament as I managed to get a team picture of my national team before our game with Indonesia which was the last game of the evening. I will speak more about that game later in this post but for now I was just happy to get a picture of our brave hearted heroes who were all proud to wear the bonnie blue of Scotland.
After Scotland it was Austria’s turn to be put in the picture with this shot taken not long after their game against Cambodia.
I don’t know about you but I’ve always believed that every world cup needs both eye candy and a hero and you can trust the Irish to deliver them. On this occasion it was the Republic of Ireland’s Jamie Geoghagen who provided both at once and prove that Glasgow miracles do actually happen.
My wandering complete at least for now, it was time to take in some more football and this game between Poland and Namibia (pictured below) was a real cracker.
This was fast paced football at it’s best and let’s just say both teams like to play an attacking game and this may account for the number of goals scored.
This was followed by Ireland against Street Stars United and this game was won convincingly by the Irish who despite their opponents best efforts managed to reach double figures. However it has to be said that the Street Stars team who were made up of players from the many nationalities resident in Glasgow gave it their best shot and showed some nifty footwork when given the chance.
Now I don’t know why maybe it was the fact that Flower of Scotland raised the spirit skywards, or that Indonesia have never been renowned as an international footballing superpower but as we kicked off I was expecting a reasonably comfortable Scotland victory.
Yes I know I should have known better I was a teenager at the time of Ally’s Army and our ill fated trip to Argentina but I thought this would be different. Alas it wasn’t and Indonesia deservedly beat us 10-3 and it could have been worse they were_10-0 up with a minute to go before Scotland roared in to action with three goals in the last minute (yes these things can happen in street soccer) to make the final score look a wee bit more respectable.
After the game I joked with Scotland goalkeeper Paul Chalmers that I was going to start an online petition to only count the last minute of the game for the final result so we could turn a 10-3 defeat into a 3-0 victory. Paul said he thought this was a great idea but I think we both knew it would have been very unfair on a brilliant young Indonesian side who must have had the loudest supporters in the tournament with the possible exceptions of Scotland and Mexico.
As I prepared to leave the square and go to the Blue Chair open mic for the second half of my night I
was introduced to Jamie MacLean (see picture) who I was told was Scotland’s greatest ever street soccer star.
As we chatted, Jamie told me that playing for his country was a brilliant experience that he wouldn’t have swapped for the world. Naturally I wanted to find out the longer term impact it had on him and whether or not it had resulted in the positive change that is hoped for by those competing. I was delighted when Jamie told me it had resulted in a very positive outcome for him as he was now working as part of the homelessness team at Glasgow Association For Mental Health and helping and supporting people who are in the position which he himself was in.
This to me is what The Homeless World Cup is really all about and I can’t think of a better man to advise those who need advice than someone who has been at the sharpest end of society and has first hand experience of the perils and pitfalls they may encounter and how to empower people to overcome the barriers they face.
My final picture of what was a wonderful evening was of two young Irish players Brian in the traditional green of his country hails from Longford in what the chattering classes would call middle Ireland, and Colin in the blue jersey who comes from Cork in the south of the country. These highly pleasant lads were a credit to their country and represented all that is best about Ireland. Like so many others across all nations these two team mates come from different parts of their country and would probably never have met had they not got involved in their national street soccer programmes.
To me this spirit of friendship is a powerful symbol of what this World cup symbolises not just among their own team members but with rivals many of whom will have formed friendships across the miles. This will I hope help participants in the confidence building skills which many people who have been placed at the margins of society often lack.
As I left the Square for the chair I reflected on a fantastic night, and I couldn’t help but be proud that when the world came to Glasgow the result was positive change not just for Scotland but for all competing nations. This was a wonderful advert for football and for friendship and that to me was best result of all.
Love And Best Wishes