Mel Young, a tireless advocate for homeless people around the globe who founded the Homeless World Cup international soccer tournament, has earned the 2016 Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award from the United States Sports Academy.
The Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated a concern for mankind. This individual should exhibit the qualities of dedication, grace under pressure, personal sacrifice, compassion, hope, and dignity that characterize the promotion of human welfare and social reform.
Young recently was presented the award in London, England, from Dr. Costas Karageorghis, an accomplished sport psychology faculty member at Brunel University in London. Karageorghis, who earned his Master of Sports Science degree in sport fitness management from the Academy in 1992, is known for his books on sport psychology and his research on the use of music in exercise and sport.
Young co-founded the Homeless World Cup organization in 2001 to advocate for a global solution to homelessness. The organization puts on the annual Homeless World Cup, a soccer tournament where teams of homeless people from each participating country play. More than 70 countries are represented in the tournament.
In order to compete in the tournament, players must have been homeless at some point after the previous year’s tournament, make a living as a street newspaper vendor, be an asylum seeker or be in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program and homeless in the previous two years.
The purpose of the program is to teach homeless people vital skills and empower them to improve their situation. The organization also uses the program as a platform for the public to re-evaluate the way it views the issue of homelessness. The program has involved more than 1 million homeless individuals since its inception.
Young grew up in Scotland with a passion for social justice and equality of opportunity, which as an adult led him in 1993 to found the Big Issue Scotland, a newspaper which hired homeless people as vendors. The publication reached a readership of more than 40,000 and is still in operation today.
Young then worked with partners to create the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), a group of 60 newspapers employing 100,000 homeless people as vendors. As INSP president, Young helped the network expand to 60 street newspapers reaching every continent and more than 30 million readers. The network employs 100,000 homeless people every year.
After an INSP conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2001, Young collaborated with Harald Schmied – publisher of Megaphon, an Austrian newspaper with homeless vendors – to found the Homeless World Cup. Together Young and Schmied believed soccer would have the power to connect people for a common cause. Eventually, Young stepped down from his leadership role at INSP to become the full time founding chief executive officer of the Homeless World Cup.
In its inaugural year, the Homeless World Cup launched with 18 participating countries. Today, the organization has initiated and supported homeless soccer leagues around the world, with finalists from each league selected to play in the annual tournament. The first Homeless World Cup took place in Graz, Austria, in 2003.
The Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award is part of the United States Sports Academy’s Awards of Sport, which each year serve as “A Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete.” The Academy presents the awards to pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to sport, in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete in several different arenas of sport. The awards honor exemplary achievement in coaching, all-around athletic performance, courage, humanitarian activity, fitness, and media, among others.
The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Distinguished Service Awards, Medallion Series, Outstanding Athletes, and Alumni of the Year awards.
Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu .
Founded in 1984, ASAMA is dedicated to the preservation of sports art, history, and literature. The ASAMA collection is composed of nearly 2,000 works of sport art across a variety of media, including paintings, sculptures, assemblages, prints and photographs. The museum is open free to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. For more information, go to www.asama.org.
By Eric Mann
Eric Mann is the communications assistant at the United States Sports Academy. Reach him at email@example.com.