It’s not easy finding rest in Shamshuipo. This part of Hong Kong is always congested. The stench of yesterday’s leftovers seems to be everywhere. And the streets have a strange, greasy quality about them – as if someone tipped over an enormous vat of cooking oil and forgot to clean up.

Late at night, when the lights dim and the day vendors pack up their piles of pre-worn clothes and strange electrical gadgets, copy watches and used cameras, a different buzz fills the air. Late at night is when the other businesses flourish. Crowds gather around makeshift stalls selling porn magazines and pirated DVDs. Near the back alleys, along Apliu Street, groups of men haggle over an an assortment of used mobile phones and digital cameras of dubious origin.

This place throbs with life, is bursting with possibilities. So many people on the make. So much activity. And huddled in street corners, under public bridges and inside Maple Street Football Playground, such intense desperation.

For it is not easy finding rest in Shamshuipo.

Eight months after venturing into this, the underbelly of Hong Kong, we’re still stunned by just how tough life can be for some people. We arrived in January, lured by the promise of an offbeat, yet potentially powerful story. An NGO had started a football team made up of homeless people. The concept is simple – hope, a sense of belonging, discipline and a bit of fun, through the world’s favourite sport. But this team also has greater ambitions. It’s planning to take part in the Homeless World Cup in South Africa this September. And it’s raised the money to do just that.

Most of the players live in Shamshuipo. At night, these homeless men should be hard to ignore, yet few visitors actually see them. They’re the ones curled up under cardboard boxes in the spectator stands at the football playground; the ones seeking respite in the crowded dormitories at Un Chau Shelter.

When the weather is good, some of the players head for Hong Kong’s famous Cultural Centre. Here, the competition for prime sleeping spots is intense. The best locations along the waterfront offer stunning views of one of the world’s most spectacular skylines.

We came, expecting to meet a bunch of aging losers. We couldn’t be more wrong. Not all are subjects are old. Or infirm. Or useless. Or even jobless. They’re actually hard to spot in the clear light of day. For daytime is when they wake up, head for the nearest public toilet, wash up, and disappear into the teeming masses. Some loiter in parks, stand in welfare queues or visit employment centres. But most go to work – as delivery men and bus drivers, cooks, cleaners and construction workers. Some are young, in their 20s. Others have seen it all – triad members, ex-cons, heroine addicts, compulsive gamblers – this team, is nothing, if not colourful.

All say they are looking for a fresh start.

In eight months, we’ve witnessed intense dramas – seen conflict and triumphs no writer could ever script. We’ve journeyed into a Hong Kong few people bother to explore. We’ve been inspired and frustrated; rebuffed by some and welcomed by others. At every turn, the football team has surprised us. Such a diverse group of people. So many stories.

How will this film end?

We’re dying to find out.