We’re leaving for Cape Town in nine hours. The Hong Kong Homeless Football Team is, at this very moment, attending an anger management workshop. To teach them how to deal with conflict, we were told.

Apparently competition at the Homeless World Cup can get pretty darn intense. And with 48 teams participating this year, the coaches want to pre-empt any incidents. Fair enough, given the fact that some of the guys don’t seem to be able to articulate their emotions very well. In the past nine months, we’ve witnessed some intense arguments, and a few minor quarrels. No major blow-ups. But as Wai Tung put it, “The team this year is quite difficult.”

When you bring together former triad members, ex-offenders, recovering addicts and reformed gamblers, the situation is bound to be intense. The members have few common interests, save football. And although some have managed to form firm, and unexpected, friendships, this team is in truth, terribly fragmented. Many of the players can be secretive and abrasive. A few are easily offended and prone to dramatics. It’s a potent mix, which is why Wai Tung is justifiably worried.

Still, there’s no denying the excitement among the team. They’ve collected their sponsored Nike shoes and jackets, quizzed each other about the rights of homeless people in Hong Kong (to avoid any embarassment in case other teams ask) and held animated discussions about what kind of provisions to bring (60 packs of instant noodles and boxes of nicorette). Most of the players have trained hard this past month and – this is perhaps the most impressive achievement yet – they’ve all moved into their own homes.

The Hong Kong Homeless Football Team officially doesn’t have a single homeless member. How’s that for an accomplishment? Now if only they’d just loosen up a little… and enjoy the trip.