Over his long career as a musician and writer, Dave Bidini has frequently been characterized as an engaging storyteller. His odysseys through sports, travel, and rock and roll have entertained readers, while simultaneously giving them a glimpse inside the worlds he describes. In his newest book, he applies those skills to a milieu very few readers will even be aware of.
Home and Away begins with Bidini discovering a soccer program for the homeless operating out of a community centre in a marginalized Toronto neighbourhood. When he digs a little deeper he learns that the ragtag group of players comprise a Canadian national team. As Bidini gets to know the players and coaches, he finds himself along for the ride as the team heads to Australia for the Homeless World Cup.
In Australia, Bidini dutifully follows the tournament, writing match reports as any sportswriter would, but it’s the personal side of the story that brings Home and Away to life. The players in the Homeless World Cup, we come to understand, aren’t that far removed from the rest of society. As we learn their stories, the true face of homelessness becomes apparent. From the barrios of Latin America to the harsh underbelly of Russia, Bidini shows readers that the path to the streets is shorter and more slippery than most people think. For some, the road begins with broken homes, mental illness, or substance abuse; for others it’s a failed business or a string of bad luck. By putting a human face on the players’ lives, Bidini confronts society’s commonly held misconceptions about the homeless.
Through sport, Bidini observes, the disenfranchised players are given a chance to be visible. Not everyone in Home and Away successfully overcomes their demons, but Bidini’s rich and enlightening portraits of the players, coaches, and alumni demonstrate the ways in which community can help make a meaningful and lasting difference in people’s lives.