Eight women from homeless shelters across the country make up the Lady Salamanders, a street soccer soccer currently in Rio, Brazil for the 8th Annual Homeless World Cup competition which wraps Sunday Sept 26th.
Philanthropist and businesswoman Sheila Johnson named the team the Lady Salamanders because salamanders, capable of surviving in fire and water, embody resilience, a quality Ms. Johnson herself and especially these women overcoming homelessness embody.
The U.S. women’s team joins Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay and Uganda in the Women’s Homeless World Cup. Zambia is the current Women’s Homeless World Cup champion, lifting the trophy at the Melbourne 2008 Homeless World Cup.
The Lady Salamanders is a program of Street Soccer USA , a national not for profit organization whose motto is “Ending Homelessness and Poverty is a Team Sport.” Street Soccer USA delivers sports based curriculum to teams in shelters and resource center in 19 cities across the United States. Seventy-five percent of team members connect to jobs, education, or housing within a year of joining the program. Each year it takes teams to represent the United States at the Homeless World Cup, a 4v4 street soccer tournament.
This year’s players include Lisa Wrightsman, who shaved her head into Mohawk in order to bond with her current teammates, who are all in recovery together. Lisa was a former second time leading scorer at Sacramento St. University before she lost control of her life. Soccer has been an important part of her recovery. Lisa told the New York Times about making the Lady Salamanders, “I’m honored, shocked. I’ve worked harder to do this than anything in my life.”
Deqo Shire, 17, another Lady Salamander, survived the war in Somali before coming to Minneapolis as a refugee. Nori Emerson, 28, from Charlotte, was living in an abandoned building when she was convinced to join Street Soccer USA. Now she lives in her own apartment.
Beating homelessness through football, the Homeless World Cup is an annual world class, international football tournament inspiring 64 national grass roots football projects and over 30,000 homeless players a year to change their lives: over 70% change for the better. The 8th Rio 2010 Homeless World Cup takes place from 19 – 26 September 2010 at Copacabana Beach, Rio, Brazil before the baton is handed to the Paris 2011 Homeless World Cup from 19 – 29 August 2011.
Read more details on the US teams at www.streetsoccerusa.org and follow tweets @streetsoccerusa #ladysals #HWCUSA
Also check out this article in ESPN highlighting the Lady Salamanders!