Chile won in both the Men’s and Women’s Homeless World Cup this month in Santiago, showing home field advantage and fan support. The competition is a regular international sporting event with international teams from every Continent to play the World’s most popular game. The central message of the Cup is the power of sport to assist poor and homeless people to engage in social and personal renewal. The phrase “A ball can change the World” displays prominently on the webpage and the message is social inclusion for the poor.
Seventy countries have national affiliates that may send a champion team to the Homeless World Cup. These teams work together for twelve months to qualify. For example, in the United States the league called Street Soccer USA connects homeless and/or impoverished individuals to sports, housing, and employment in some cases. A few players will even make international trips to represent their country. This year, the US team came in 3rd in their tier behind Switzerland and India. Recruitment often is in the local street newspaper focused on underprivileged communities.
Players are included as much as possible despite challenges. Some players report substance abuse, broken homes, or other trauma leading to homelessness. Motiving the team is an issue and some players disappear during practice. According to participants, depression is a major problem that soccer assists with in remarkable ways. One of the players of the USA team in the Mexico City 2012 Homeless World Cup was a veteran and living in a mission. He ended up as the captain of the Street Soccer New York Team.
Volunteer coaches encourage personal dignity and self-esteem in team players. Sports industry donates uniforms and artificial turf soccer pitches. Donations and/or Government support provides airfare and other costs of the effort. Professional venues such as the Stade de Liberté at the Champs de Mars in Paris are made available for each tournament.
The first Homeless World Cup was in Austria in 2003 and was organized by the International Network of Street Papers. In addition to the matches, free street carnivals are part of the festivities. The success of the sporting event is in the lives of the participants more than who wins. For instance, the 2003 games had 141 players and of that number 31 had full time jobs post-tournament, 12 obtained contracts with teams, and a further 49 were engaged in positive pursuits and no longer homeless. Breaking stereotypes about homelessness and poverty is another outcome. Mel Young, a founder of the competition, summarized it well: “The impact of this competition is profound. It has engaged over 100,000 homeless people since it started, with participants changing their lives for the better.” (2011)
Link: https://www.homelessworldcup.org/ (visited, 10/27/2014)
Magee, J. (2011). Disengagement, de-motivation, vulnerable groups and sporting inclusion: a case study of the Homeless World Cup. Soccer & Society, 12(2), 159-173.
Scotland takes victory in football’s Homeless World Cup. (2011, Aug 8). The Times (United Kingdom), 16. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-14694749
Street Soccer U. Street Soccer USA National Team to Compete in 48 Nation Homeless World Cup on October 6th-14th in Mexico City. Business Wire (English) [serial online]. 9:Available from: Regional Business News, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 27, 2014.