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Richmonder Aims for Homeless World Cup

After graduating from St. Christopher's, where he played soccer, basketball and track, Cann headed for Davidson College, where Richmonder Rob Ukrop had become a soccer star. In 1998, Cann was named Davidson's Most Valuable Player. After college, he eventually settled in Charlotte, where he now runs an art program for the Urban Ministry Center, a homeless-services agency.

There, he met Jessica Woody, a student at UNC Charlotte, who was working at the center for a class. It was Woody who stumbled upon World Cup organization online. She proposed the idea to the center. "And we went after it," Cann says.

Cann and Woody organized a team of 20 men and women last summer to play in a Charlotte league. It was hardly a winning season. But it worked, Cann says. It helped his staff develop new kinds of relationships with the players. And instead of feeling marginalized, he says, the players gained confidence — and a chance to interact with "everyday people."

In November, he and Woody visited U.S. organizers of the Homeless World Cup in New York to pitch their team for the 2005 Cup. Thirty teams from around the world are expected to compete in this year's event. Woody and Cann highlighted their high attendance rates, and in the end, they were selected to represent the United States at the event in July.

Now they need money — at least $20,000. Last week, Cann learned the team had received a Bank of America grant for $10,000. And on Feb. 18, he and Woody traveled to Washington, D.C., to ask the U.S. Soccer Federation and the Interagency Council on Homelessness for help.

If all goes well, they're off to Edinburgh in July. "If we win, we get the trophy," Cann says. But that's not the focus. "It's about participation."

Besides, there's going to be stiff competition, he says. "Manchester United is involved." — Jason Roop

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