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Game 60: Kralji Ulice Day Centre, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The first person I met when I got off the bus in Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, was Edin who was selling the city’s equivalent of The Big Issue in the street . I arranged to meet him the day after and visit the homeless day centre he uses, Kralji Ulice (Kings of the Street ) Alexis, a Malaysian woman from my hostel, was up for a game and traveled down with me into the city.

Once at the centre we met the very lovely and hardworking Kata and Andrea who were running the centre today. In addition, Andrea is a resettlement worker for homeless folk in the area. Approximately 50 homeless people use the day centre each week , mostly men. It is a lifeline for many , offering a safe space , a hot drink and company.

Kralji Ulice also offer 1:1 support on the street to people who do not want to access the centre . During the time we were there , many men dropped in to pick up their magazines to sell. They paid 50 cents for each copy which they could sell for 1 Euro.

We chatted to Andrea and Kara for half an hour then went outside where many men using the centre had congregated around the courtyard for a smoke and a beer. I spoke with Edin and we decided to have a game right there in front of the centre. Frankie and Alexis joined me and Edin was joined by Denis and Miha.

It was a rough and tough game from the start . Miha in particular was putting it about a bit , but Frankie for us was his match - tall, rangey and agile for his size, he managed to snuff out many of Miha’s forceful attacks . Denis played with a can in his hand and a smile and his face . Edin hung back for the opposition and tried blasting the ball goal wards at every opportunity .

Despite our efforts we were 4-0 down after 10 minutes . Alexis was in a state of shock as these big guys raced towards her goal with the ball , stepping out of the way instead of being crushed. Wise move. She grew in confidence as the game went on and got stuck right in . We called for reinforcements from the watching crowd. Matteo joined us and we began the fight back ..getting it to 5-5 at one point.

The game didn’t let up. Miha continued his belligerence and almost single-handedly secured victory for his side 10-5. The lads seem to have really enjoyed the game , particularly the big, smiling Frankie. There’s much more to this story, but what a really enjoyable game at such an inspiring centre providing an essential service for some of the city’s most needy. We chatted to the chaps for a while afterwards and they all welcomed us and wished us a great time in their city.

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