The Cup rules say a player must have been homeless within the last year before competition — a standard not easily proved with paperwork, per se. Local coaches are supposed to get to know the players well enough to vet their credentials. As Flomo and Deisner have learned, there's a certain amount of serendipity involved in assembling a team.

"It was difficult at first to get guys who were committed, because shelter guys come and go," explains Deisner. The men who now make up the St. Louis team don't adhere to what he calls "your stereotypical homeless guy on the side of the highway, collecting money with a sign." Most of the players work, and hope to leave the shelter as soon as possible.

Take Vince, the construction worker. He says he was once an IT professional until his marriage broke up. Then Vince became a contractor for a time and lived out of a camper until it was stolen from south county about two months ago. He lost everything. Vince arrived at Peter & Paul just as the soccer team was getting started. Having played for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he quickly signed up. "I look forward to this every week," he says. "We give each other a lot of moral support."

David Flomo gets a huge kick out of his homeless soccer squad.
Jennifer Silverberg
David Flomo gets a huge kick out of his homeless soccer squad.

The youngest member of the team, 24-year-old Daniel, holds down a job preparing food at the Centenary Church kitchen. He moved into the transitional housing program at Peter & Paul in May, hoping it might motivate him to work harder to get a roof over his head. "I could've continued staying with family, but I was starting to be co-dependent on them. I want to get something for myself, and do it by myself."

Daniel says he first thought the soccer team sounded like a fun distraction; now he's getting more out of it than he imagined. "You're looking at the big picture with this," says Daniel. "You're planning for something."

Deisner and Flomo aren't betting any money that their team will return with a trophy. "What I would like," says Flomo, "is the consistency: to come back home and keep the team going, to get to the point where we, too, can practice several times a week."

Vince, meanwhile, says he'll stick around as long as he's at the shelter. "I commend them for doing this. Not a lot of guys would. I mean, homeless soccer — it's a little out there, don't you think?"

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