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“Kicking It”: A Movie Review
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From September 6-10, soccer players from forty-eight nations will gather in Italy to compete in the 2009 Homeless World Cup. If you are not lucky enough to travel to Italy, you can watch “Kicking It,” a film documenting the 2006 competition. Available on-line or on DVD, “Kicking It” tells the story of seven players who have struggled with homelessness, poverty, and or/addiction. Through teamwork and participation in the Homeless World Cup, they gain motivation to change their lives for the better.

graphical depiction of a person holding a trophy with the title Kicking it: a movie review

“There are an estimated one billion homeless people in the world.”

This is the staggering statistic that greets viewers of “Kicking It,” the documentary film that chronicles the 2006 Homeless World Cup. As viewers press “play” and settle into their plush seats with buttery popcorn in hand, they are confronted with the fact that approximately one seventh of the world’s total population is either homeless or living on the margins of society. Homelessness is a problem in all societies.

So what can we do? How does one approach a problem of this magnitude?

Why not play soccer?

This was the solution of Mel Young, founder of the Homeless World Cup. In 2003, the first Homeless World Cup took place with players from sixteen nations. By 2008, players from fifty-six nations competed in the annual event. Young observed that across the globe, people of all ages play street soccer. During these games, it does not matter whether someone goes home at night to sleep in a cardboard box or lives without running water. He observed that soccer changes lives. Through soccer, Young saw a way to end homelessness.  

One year after competing in the Homeless World Cup, seventy three percent of players report improving their lives by entering treatment for drug and alcohol addictions, securing employment, going back to school, improving their housing situation, or reuniting with their families. Some even go on to play or coach professional or semi-professional soccer teams.

Released in July 2008, director Susan Koch’s documentary “Kicking It” presents vignettes of the lives of seven of the nearly 20,000 players involved in the 2006 Homeless World Cup.

Damien, a 23 year-old from Dublin, Ireland, is first seen leaning against a stone wall, cigarette pressed between his lips. We learn that his battle with homelessness is overshadowed by a pervasive addiction to heroin, an addiction that has affected many Irish youth. He has lost many things to addiction: his love of soccer, the roof over his head, and two years with his mother because he could not accept her help.

In Africa, we meet Alex, a 29 year-old from Nairobi, Kenya. Alex is not burdened by addiction, nor unemployment, but by growing up in an overcrowded slum. There is no electricity, no sanitation, and perhaps most devastating for Alex, no field to play soccer.

Jesus is 62. He is from Madrid, Spain. He has known nothing of his family for the past decade. His history involves ten years of incarceration, suicide attempts, a bank robbery, struggles with alcoholism, and two and a half years as a player for “Real Madrid,” one of the most prominent soccer teams in Spain.

What do these men share, besides experiences of homelessness? They all play soccer for a team that will compete in the Homeless World Cup.

On September 24, 2009, the makers of “Kicking It” will be honored with a 2009 McKinney-Vento Award [insert hyperlink: Vento_Awards_2009.cfm]. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) doles out these annual awards for work highlighting the issue of homelessness nationally and internationally.

This film is about a journey from homelessness into something much greater. While watching “Kicking It,” it is impossible not to feel compassion for the players whose lives are touched by the Homeless World Cup. Susan Koch’s cinematography and story telling creates a powerful connection between the viewer and these remarkable players.

The film gives a human face to homelessness. Whether you love soccer or not, you will be moved by the stories of real people who have struggled to compete at this level and rebuild their lives in the process.

Click here to learn more about the Homeless World Cup.

Click here to learn more about “Kicking It.”

Click here to view the documentary “Kicking It.”

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