23/10/08

Kick off Poverty

Rouf Municipal Stadium” in central Athens is exploding to life every Sunday night. At 8.00 pm sharp the members of the Greek Team will take to the field under the watchful eyes of trainer Periklis Papapanagis. “Rouf Municipal Stadium” has become something of a “home ground for the Greek Team”. It is there that almost two years ago our first football training session took place. It is a place full of memories, much fun and hard football! On any given Sunday, approximately twenty people will turn up. Attendance varies. We have had days when over thirty football maestros will take to the field, causing a headache to Periklis, who would have to enlist the services of our volunteers to manage the rising current of wonderful people and footballers who responded to our call to play. Training involves a bit of everything really: running and warm up exercises, individual drills and, of course, a game. The stakes are high. The members of the losing team end up doing all the cleaning up of the dressing rooms. It is not a bet really. It is just an extra incentive to add to the fun of the game. Homeless people, refugees and people on drug rehabilitation programs are the football stars of the day. However, the doors are open to everyone. Right from day one, we have encouraged friends to come and join us on the football field. The response has been great! It is such a great joy to see people who show up to our training sessions –at times out of curiosity and on occasions on duty (like in the case of journalists)- to come back again and again. Players are getting relaxed, remain focus, meet new people who come from different walks of life, and everyone is happy. On a typical Sunday, Anna, our doctor (from Médecins du Monde) will be there, alert as ever to attend any player who might get a knock. Paul, a psychologist from Arsis NGO, will join the team on the field. Louiza, Sergios and Chris will be there too, ready to provide their services to the team. Ages vary. Ali, an unescorted refugee from Afghanistan, is 14 years old. He will come to training whenever he is done with his homework. On Monday morning he has to be at school. Dimitris is the patriarch of the team. At 65 years old, he is by far the oldest person to take to the field. He rarely misses a training session! Dimitris was a member of last year’s team that traveled to Copenhagen. He is still there, commanding the respect of everyone. On occasions, he will score the odd goal that will lift the team spirit to new heights!
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by Chris Alefantis for homelessworldcup
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