Tom and Tiffany in France

Tom and Tiffany are experiencing French culture in Paris, and some truly memorable experiences.  Tom has written us a blog from the past few day, read on!

Let's not beat around the bush here. Parisians have a bit of a reputation for being unfriendly, unhelpful and sometimes, downright rude. And to our dismay at first we seemed to have met each one that perpetuates the stereotype. Our first day was a difficult way to begin our adventures. Our bags were lost by the airport staff, so without any information as to when they would arrive, we set off into the heart of Paris to see if we could track down Team Canada, who had arrived a couple of days earlier. Managing to learn that they would be at the Homeless World Cup site next to the Eiffel tower, we jumped on some bikes and headed in the general direction of the tower, using only sight lines as the map of choice.

When we got down to the Champ des Mars, where the Homeless World Cup (HWC) was taking place, we immediately located the Canadian team and caught up with all the guys and girls, who were brimming with excitement and confidence! We had a few more challenges on the day, that had our initial impression of Paris, leaning more toward the negative.

However, getting down to the HWC site on the first day of competition instantly changed the negative vibes into positive ones. The site was like a little pocket of love and happiness in the heart of the city. So many excited and friendly faces coming together in one spot for the same reason. Unfortunately we missed the opening ceremony due to some unforeseen circumstances, but all 64 nations had made their way from the Trocadero, across the Seine and under the Eiffel Tower to the Champ Des Mars in a swirling mass of colour and noise, eager to get the competition underway. Tiffany quickly befriended the Malawi womens team, dancing up a storm, While I went and watched the team from the Phillipines play their own version of "red-ass", where the team stands in a circle, holding hands. They attempt to juggle the ball between them and not break the circle, whoever drops the ball or breaks the circle has to stand facing away bending over, while the team takes turns shooting the ball as hard as the can at them. They were having so much fun playing that they got a huge crowd watching them!

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The First day of competition saw every nation competing. The beauty was, on this day, every team got a chance to start the match by singing their national anthem. Watching team Canada singing their anthem with so much pride was awe-inspiring and they were reveling in the moment. The men came out firing against Italy quickly racking up a 4-1 lead. However the Italians regained their composure and eventually outplayed the guys to win 7-4. But they were not down-heartened as the Italian team were one of the strongest teams around. The women had to face Malawi first, one of the contenders for the Homeless World Cup. They too started fast taking the lead early, but Malawi proved too strong, eventually winning 11-3. To make matters worse, Nicole, our player from Kelowna came off the field with a knee injury that has seemingly forced her out of the rest of the HWC. We are hoping she will recover in time to get at least one more game in.

Day two was a bit of a mixed bag of results for both Canadian teams. Unfortunately the men were unable to put a point on the board against the Nigerians who beat them 11-0, but managed to keep their composure to earn the first victory of the HWC against South Korea 6-2!! Will, Our Kelowna player had a cracker game with a number of ferocious shots on goal but unfortunately was not one of the players on the score sheet. The women only played 1 game on day two and came away with the victory after a 2-1 victory over India that was decided by a shoot-out. I was lucky enough to be the commentator for the match and found extremely difficult to remain unbiased!!

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Day three was less successful for both teams. The mens team on the wrong end of two heavy losses from Mexico and Palestine, both teams that have a chance of winning the whole thing. Their level of soccer skill is second-to-none, and the Canadians were not able to contain them. The women only fared slightly better, having lost to Argentina in a closer game, but then getting a lesson in football from the Norwegians. However at the end of the day, both teams came away smiling in the true spirit of the Homeless World Cup. I also got to meet one of my football heroes today, Emannuel Petit, who was part of the 1998 World Cup squad for France when they were victorious over Brazil on home turf. He is also an ambassador for the Homeless World Cup, and an amazingly friendly guy!

So now we are at day 4, and I have been commentating half of the games on pitch # 3, which is the equivalent of about 4 full length games, so I am getting slightly better as the tournament goes on, but it really is exhausting work. Each night Tiffany and i come home, planning to get out and see some sights, only to find ourselves waking up 4 hours later after trying to take a short nap on the couch. The Parisian heat and humidity is intense too, the players and the spectators are really feeling it. The men have had a tough draw to deal with and unfortunately went down again to another strong team with an 8-2 loss to the hosts, France, the guys are scoring goals and remain in good spirits, which was evident when they took to the stands to watch the women play Uganda in the afternoon. The whole crowd was really behind Canada, the guys doing their best to whip the crowd into a frenzy, and managing to do so. The women, feeling the energy stepped up to the Ugandans and forced out a very hard-earned 5-4 victory which went down to the wire, and one of the best games to watch so far!

The teams are enjoying a well-deserved afternoon off, and have made the trip out to Versailles to check out the palace, While Tiff and I are going to attempt to enjoy some nightlife (if we don't fall asleep first!!)

So far it has been an amazing experience, and I'm so glad there are 4 more days to go!!! The amazing comaraderie amongst all the teams has been unbelievable to watch, but the truly inspiring thing is watching the guys change right before your very eyes. Will, our local Kelowna hero, barely spoke a word to anyone in the first two months of training with us down at City park and the Sunplex; his shyness is almost debilitating. Here in Paris he is a new guy; Yelling at the top of his lungs, dancing, singing, giving it all on the pitch. It's truly inspiring. Really amazing that such a simple thing, kicking a ball, can make such a difference. But I guess we have all always known that. Know these guys and girls get the chance to know that themselves.

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