Addicted to sports
Author Dave Bidini follows a rag tag group of former addicts
across the globe for a soccer tournament
Toronto writer Dave Bidini stumbled across the subject of his new book in the most unlikely of places.
While making his way through rough-and-tumble Moss Park in downtown T.O.’s lower east side, Bidini witnessed a moment of sporting serendipity when a soccer game broke out among a beleaguered group of homeless men and women.
It was a practice for a local shelter’s street soccer program, and it would lead Bidini on the trail of a ragtag group of soccer players (recovering addicts, mostly) on a journey to Calgary then on to Melbourne, Australia, for the Homeless World Cup. The catch, for Bidini, was to make the book more than a Hallmark moment.
“I was conscious of it when I started the project,” says Bidini. “I was worried about violins drowning out the rest of the music, but in the end, it wasn’t really that hard to deal with. The tone of the players and their attitudes were, at times, black comedy in a way.”
The book chronicles the efforts of the Torontonians, coaches and players, who would make the trip to Calgary for the national championships and then on to Australia. But, the stars of the show are 18-year-old runaway Krystal from Regent Park and former pro soccer player Billy, a recovering OxyContin addict.
Bidini pulls no punches, Home and Away is honest and inspiring and puts a human face on an issue that is all too often ignored outright, let alone in the sports section. But, Bidini isn’t in it to inspire change. He just wants to tell their story.
“I think, like any book, you’re just trying to brighten a corner of the world, throw light on a place that hasn’t really been illuminated before,” says Bidini. “This is not a call to arms, necessarily.”
Home and Away is Bidini’s eighth book. The writer and former guitarist for Canadian rock band the Rheostatics has gravitated to the unusual in the sports genre, from hockey players in China and the United Arab Emirates (Tropic of Hockey) to discovering his roots through baseball in Italy (Baseballisimo).
He’s a sports guy, but Bob McCowan he definitely is not. “Play is important. We see it with our own kids. Playing is all they do until maybe 13. At a certain age we start mortgaging that for other things,” says Bidini. “I don’t think you have to trade it all in. Sports play makes you kind of become a healthier citizen, both physically and mentally.”