Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/10/2010 (2813 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Writing about Canada's national homeless soccer team was a pitch Dave Bidini couldn't refuse.
The Toronto musician/author was tipped off about his city's homeless street soccer chapter by his publisher, and Bidini discovered them playing on a field two blocks from where he used to live.
The team is part of a homeless league that might be little known to the average person, but that has changed the lives of countless street people over the years. The stories of those people, the league and ultimately the world-championship finals are the subject of the vocalist-guitarist's ninth book, Home and Away: In Search of Dreams at the Homeless World Cup of Soccer.
"Living on the streets is a health hazard," says the former member of the Rheostatics. "You're not eating well, you don't get exercise and lots of times there are substance-abuse issues, but once you're on a team and moving around, it can't help but have a positive effect on a person's physical and mental health. It's remarkable the impact it's had on people's lives."
The fact he'd never heard of the team or noticed them before didn't surprise him, since a lot of the programs geared towards homeless people, like the culture itself, are almost invisible to most people unless you are seeking them out, he says.
"In the big city, of course you don't know what's happening behind closed doors," he says.
Bidini spent a year hanging out with the team, who play four on four on a 16-by-22-foot court, and getting to know the players. He travelled with them to Melbourne, Australia, to watch them compete in the Homeless World Cup.
Everyone he met around the world had his or her own story to tell. What stuck out for Bidini was how playing on the team, which is part of a larger program, helped improved people's lives by moving them toward getting their own homes, getting help with their addictions, reconnecting with estranged families and/or getting jobs.
"If I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes I wouldn't have believed it," Bidini says "Of the four people I went to Melbourne with on Team Canada, one girl went back to school and got her Grade 12. Billy, the OxyContin addict, has been clean for two years and is training to become an alcohol counsellor himself. One person had a bad business and lost all his cash and was estranged from his family; now he's selling a product at trade shows and has hired another of his teammates to help him."
Bidini will appear Wednesday at the West End Cultural Centre where he will read excerpts from the book and play some music solo. Tickets are $10 at the WECC, Ticketmaster, Music Trader and the Folk Festival Music Store.
Prior to the reading, he will join members of Winnipeg's music community, players from Manitoba Senior Soccer League cup champions, the Rowdies, and a group of neighbourhood children for a soccer game at Central Park's new pitch. The game starts at 4:30 p.m. and is free for the public. Children from the neighbourhood can contact Chino Argueta at the Spence Neighbourhood Association (783-0290) to sign up.
Fans of Bidini's past works will find it different from his other books, since instead of playing a central role, he mostly acts as an observer, telling the stories of others.
"When I sat down to write this book I knew two things that would separate it: it wouldn't be as funny as my other books — there was more of a serious matter here — and I wouldn't really be in it. My other books are through my lens, but I didn't think it would be fair to be in it," says Bidini, who contributes a weekly column to the National Post.
The connection to his other books is the combination of sports and travel. In 2000's Tropic of Hockey Bidini travelled to Asia and beyond to find out where people were playing Canada's national sport, and in 2004 he followed around an Italian minor league baseball team in Baseballissimo, which is being made into a movie.
"(Rush singer) Geddy Lee holds the option for the book, so he's the representative for the world. He and the producer are out there trying to find the right writer. The idea is to have a screenwriter in place before the World Series ends and once that gets underway we'll look for directors," says Bidini, who feels too close to the project to sign up as the screenwriter himself.
As for music, expect another album sometime in the next year from the Bidiniband, which is scheduled to hit the studio in November.
"We play half a dozen times a month. We're a small unit, four of us with a mini kit and small amps. We show up late, play hard and get the hell out of there," he says with a laugh.