Soccer players score new hope

Melbourne hosts international homeless soccer tournament.

Members of The Salvation Army’s Homeless World Cup soccer team [Photo courtesy of Australia Southern Territory].

In early December, Melbourne, Australia hosted teams from 56 nations for the sixth annual homeless world cup soccer tournament.

Norway’s coach Rune Isegran, a Salvationist from Moss Corps and employee of the Army’s Harbor Light Center in Oslo, trained his homeless soccer team for three months, preparing them for the tournament’s 14-minute games.

Isegran said the team’s original aim was to be among the 25 best teams.

“Last time we were ranked 37th, and the time before we were last,” he said.

Most of the team members are part of a rehabilitation program. The players signed a contract to be “drug-free for the whole team, for the whole of the tournament.”

Prospective players must display a willingness to adapt to a team ethic, relate to the group, control drug use and addiction, and possess some decent soccer skills.

“The faith element is very important to us,” Isegran said. “We don’t ‘push’ God on our players, but we start each day with Scripture and a talk. We pray for the trip and get feedback about God from our players in our small gatherings. Our men say ‘Amen’ and feel good about prayer. And we always parade with The Salvation Army flag and the Norwegian flag.”

The team from Afghanistan won the tournament, after beating Russia in the grand final. The Norway team finished in 16th place.

From the Australia Southern Territory’s Dec. 20, 2008 issue of On Fire.

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