This past Saturday, the Homeless World Cup arrived in Sacramento. For the first time in the organization’s 20-year existence, a U.S. city was chosen to host the weeklong event. This year’s upbeat, exciting competition gathered 40 teams from around the world in a powerful display of skill and resilience.
Participants in the Cup must be at least 16 years old, have not taken part in a previous Cup, and have been homeless at some point in the past year. There are also provisions for asylum seekers and people in rehabilitation programs.
I headed out early Saturday, June 8 to Hornet Stadium on the Sac State Campus. I’m an alumni of the university, as are two of the women who helped bring the event to Sacramento: Managing Director of Street Soccer USA: Sacramento Lisa Wrightsman and her wife Tiffany Fraser, Chief of Staff for Street Soccer USA. My assignment for Outword was to focus on Wrightsman, who was a former competitor at the event, as well as getting in some of the flavor of the opening ceremony and games.
As I chatted with other photojournalists from Reuters and the Washington Post, we were all happy to be covering an event with such a positive angle on homelessness. The day was already warm, but there was a slight breeze and we watched with amusement as an organizer had to tell the Sac State football team that a major event was going to start soon (they had the wrong practice time). As the start time approached, the athletes gathered on the far side of ther track with the respective flags.
I had not known how close I would be able to get to the action. Here’s the equipment I brought:
- Nikon D750 and D780 bodies (smallest, lightest full-frame sensor Nikon bodies)
- Tamron 24-70 2.8 zoom
- Nikkor 70-200 2.8 zoom
- Nikkor 1.4x teleconverter
- Nikkor 50 and 85mm primes
- Nikon SB-700 speedlite and Magmod grip and diffuser
- Turtle stepladder and carbon fiber Oben monopod (strapped onto backpack)
- In the car, in case I was further than I expected: Nikkor 200-400 f/4 zoom
- Carbon fiber Oben tripod
Australia kicked off the parade with their inflatable kangaroos. Only four players at a time play, so the teams are small, with just eight players total, plus coaches and managers. I was pretty amazed to see the Ukraine sporting a team, and found that very moving.
The parade was loud, a little chaotic and lots of fun. After a bunch of shooting on field level, I hiked up to the top of the bleachers to get more of a birds eye view. With the empty bleachers on the other side, I’m not sure the effort to get up there was worth it, but it’s always good to try something different than what everyone else is doing.
After the parade, there was an opening ceremony in one of the three colored pitches set up on the west side of the field. Speakers included the President of Street Soccer U.S.A. Lawrence Cann, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Sac State President Robert Nelsen and Homeless World Cup founder Mel Young.
Both my zooms were fine, but the challenge was the sun. The sun was almost directly behind the speakers, so their faces were mostly in shadow. I shot from the side to try and get some lighting on their face, then lightened up the shadows on the other side later.
Once the action started, things got much faster. My long zoom was set on the 5m to infinity setting to avoid having to search for focus on closer (it will focus up to 1.4m) , but a good chunk of the action turned out to be within 5m, so I lost some images because of that. I’m not the best judge of distance, sometimes!
However, my focus was more on Wrightsman and fortunately she was easy to catch on the other side of the boards. As you can see, lots of joy in her face when the U.S.A. women’s team scored their first goal of the first game of the entire tournament!
As the U.S.A men’s team took on Indonesia next, I was startled to see a female player in a hijab uniform acting as goalie. Indonesia did not sport a women’s team, so she was allowed to play with the men. It turns out Shilipi Yanti even sells sports hijabs to help support her family in Badung. You can read more about her fascinating story on the HWC website here.
After the U.S.A. mens and women’s games (women won, men lost), I tracked down Lisa and Tiffany, took a few photos and did a quick interview with Lisa. Did I take out my prime glass and set up my flash to do these shots? Nope. I would not have long to chat, and decided to just stay with my setup and finalize some questions I wanted to ask while I waited for her. Again, more post-processing lightening of shadows later.
There will be much more about Lisa in my upcoming Outword article, but it was really interesting to hear about her thoughts on the importance of the event, and the power of sports to help homeless folks, especially LGBTQ+.
It was a fun few hours of shooting and taking in the event. The athlete’s camaraderie and sheer joy at participating were palpable. Through this inclusive event, the tournament participants are clearly finding hope, inspiration, and a sense of belonging. The Homeless World Cup stands as a powerful reminder that through teamwork, resilience, and compassion, it may be possible to change lives and build a better society for everybody. ⚽️ 📷
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All photos are copyright Chris Allan and cannot be used without my written permission. Please contact me for usage rights. Thank you for reading my blog post “Shooting Day #1 at The Homeless World Cup. ” To learn more about me and my work, please see my About page.