April Fools: Homeless team courted for new Major League soccer stadium

3073864338_961c9fde8e_oFrom the April 1 edition of Street Roots. (The April Fools edition was one of the most popular Street Roots ever published. We sold out of the newspaper in a week and ordered more. It’s on the streets for two more days – get your copy while it’s hot!)

Homeless residents across Portland chanted and sang for 40 minutes Thursday after news spread that a homeless soccer team was being courted for the new Major League Soccer stadium. Police issued 86 citations.

The Homeless World Cup is traditionally a street soccer event, played in pitches, but as the popularity of soccer grows, along with homelessness, the expectation is that homeless teams could become a regular feature at the new stadium. Homeless people are not allowed to play soccer on Portland’s streets.

The new team’s presence is expected to draw worldwide attention among the homeless community. Past Homeless World Cup events in Edinburgh, Scotland; Copenhagen, Denmark; and most recently in Melbourne, Australia, attracted tens of thousands of players and spectators — most of them living in extreme poverty and on the streets — to the host cities.

“We are elated with the news,” said Ismella Ratones, an avid soccer fan experiencing homelessness. “I know it hasn’t been formally announced yet, but we know the city needs more resources for the homeless, and a new sports venue seems like the answer we’ve been waiting for.”Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber made the announcement in March that Portland would be host to the 18th team in the MLS. However, the Portland Timbers will not join the regular season until 2011. A homeless league has the advantage of starting right away, said Homeless World Cup founder Pelmel DeYoung.

“Our players are waiting for an opportunity to show the world what they’re capable of,” said DeYoung. “They could take to the field now. Some of them already think of it as their new home.”

Team alliances already are forming on the streets, with the Old Town community fielding the strongest bench, and a rivalry already is heating up between camps on the east and west banks of the Willamette River. Some questions have arisen about whether people who have received park exclusions will be allowed into the new PGE Park as players. Exclusions prohibit people from entering parks for 30 to 120 days or more, which could interrupt the season in preparation for the Homeless World Cup.

Randy Tent, a homeless soccer follower, said that regardless of the logistics, bringing a homeless soccer team to Portland just made good sense.

“Soccer is a worldwide phenomenon, reaching fever-pitch support everywhere except the United States,” Tent said. “The U.S, on the other hand, has one of the world’s highest rates of homelessness unheard of in some soccer-loving countries. Coincidence?”

By O.w. Maishins
Unemployed Journalist

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