Photos and Video
A ball can change your life. At least that's what the organizers of the Homeless World Cup believe. A look at the fourth annual games-now an internationally recognized sports event-that took place in 2006, Kicking It documents the homeless soccer players who arrive in Cape Town, South Africa to represent their countries. Like the competition it chronicles, Kicking It gives a face and a voice to those on the fringes of society. But while these athletes might share the same living situation, their stories are different. Alex, captain of the Kenyan team, cleans toilets in the slums but dreams of being scouted at the games. Sixty-two-year old Spaniard Jesus is a recovering alcoholic and convicted bank robber who played for Real Madrid in his youth. Najib, from Kabul, Afghanistan, was displaced by civil war. And for the Russian team, what's at stake is nothing less than a sense of identity. During the week of the games, 48 nations will come together on playing fields constructed where Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Wins and losses will be tallied, cultural differences will be bridged, and romance will even bloom. As directed by Susan Koch (Mario's Story), the film takes a clear-eyed look at the circumstances-be it poverty, addiction, or war-that bring the players to Cape Town, yet it is never maudlin in the telling. The games can provide a path out, but it's up to each player to step up.
Director's Statement Collapse
In February of 2006, I was on the internet reading a blog from the World Economic Forum in Davos. There was a brief mention of something called the Homeless World Cup. I was instantly intrigued. As a filmmaker, I'm always on the lookout for stories that are entertaining, off the beaten track, and about something important. The more I looked into it, the more interested I became. While it sounds bizarre at first, when you stop to think about it, many of the world's best soccer players come from the streets. I told my good friend and director of photography, Neil Barrett, about it. I knew (being a Brit) that he was a big football fan. He jumped on the idea and the two of us started looking into the best way to tell the story and find the characters we wanted to follow.
We wanted geographical diversity as well as characters that reflected the different reasons for homelessness. We had 48 countries to choose from. It was a tough choice. In the end, we settled on Afghanistan, Kenya, USA, Spain, Russia, and Ireland. As we began meeting the teams, we realized that this was a much better story than we ever imagined. I must admit I am not the football fanatic that Neil is, but I soon became hooked on street soccer and saw firsthand the tremendous power of sports to change lives. Everywhere we went there was a willingness on the part of homeless men and women to share their stories and lives. We were struck by how proud the players were to be wearing the colors of their country—despite the fact that they were living on the very edge of society. We spent six months following our players before we all headed off for the competition in Cape Town, South Africa. Jeff Werner, my longtime partner on feature docs, joined us in Cape Town as co-director and editor.
Cape Town was intense and inspiring. We covered the matches with three or four cameras as well as following our players off the pitch [the field]. What soon became apparent was that “small moments” on the pitch were reflective of greater life issues and lessons. We headed home from Cape Town, now with 200 hours of footage, and Jeff got to work editing what would become a 97-minute film. Not an easy task when you have seven characters. I didn't want to drop any of them. Each one told a different part of the global story of homelessness. Jeff was able to interweave the characters and their stories seamlessly. While I hope we have made an engaging film that will resonate with audiences all over the world, I also hope we have made a film that matters. This objective is key to my producer, Ted Leonsis, who coined the term “filmanthropy.” Ted understands the power of films to move audiences to act and is developing innovative ways for people to do so that relate directly to what you'll see in the film.
My sincere thanks and appreciation go to my executive producers who made the film possible: Rick Allen, Randy Boe, Jack Davies, Joe Edelman, Mark Ein, Colin Farrell, Raul Fernandez, Sheila Johnson, Nigel Morris, David Pottruck, Russ Ramsey, Soroush Shehabi, and Doug Smith. Mel Young, founder of the Homeless World Cup, and Kat Byles, the communications director, provided critical support, access, and insights.
What do I hope audiences take away from this film? I hope audiences find themselves rooting for the players, both on the pitch and in their lives. I also hope they come away with a renewed sense of our common humanity and global community. I hope they see homeless people, as I did, in a different light and are moved to do something for the one billion people living homeless in the world today.
Film Information Collapse
Cast & Credits Collapse
Principal Cast Colin Farrell
Co-Director/Editor Jeff Werner
Producer Ted Leonsis
Producers Susan Koch, Jedd Wider, Todd Wider
Director of Photography Neil Barrett
For ESPN John Skipper, John Walsh, Kevin Clinckscales, Bob Wallace, Connor Schell, John Dahl
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Susan Koch directs, writes, and produces documentaries for networks ranging from PBS to MTV. The Emmy and Peabody Award-winner codirected and produced Mario's Story, which won the Audience Award for best documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival. She also directed the documentary City at Peace and produced an ABC/Nightline special entitled Remembering a Family, about her four family members that were killed on 9/11. Koch has made videos and films for many nonprofit groups, including Women for Women International and the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children. She is a founding board member of Our Voices Together, a nonprofit organization founded by 9/11 families.