Homeless World Cup

Posted by editor 18/09/2012 0 Comment 1535 views
Homeless World Cup, Melbourne, 2008

Homeless World Cup, Melbourne, 2008

There are one billion homeless people in the world according to the United Nations. These are easy figures to say but a difficult situation to face. As a global problem homelessness manifests itself in many different ways but the feeling of isolation, exclusion and hopelessness are universal.

When we first created the Homeless World Cup about 10 years ago, we already knew that homelessness was a real issue. With the prevailing global economic situation, the reality for millions and millions of people hasn’t really changed that much. It is simply outrageous that in this modern world that homelessness should exist at all. As human beings we are ingenious. For example, we have created an incredible communication tool like the internet which connects the world together and has changed the whole way the world interacts. If we can do all of this then we can certainly end homelessness if we put our minds to the challenge. It is just a question of priorities.

This is what motivated us when created the Homeless World Cup – a new approach that was to end homelessness using football as a mechanism to engage with homeless people and stimulate them to change their lives. Football, an international language that everybody understands, motivates them to go training, to wake up with a goal and face new challenges, but basically to get off the streets and to take a new path in life. Our global football ambassador, Eric Cantona couldn’t say it better: “Everybody needs to wake up with a goal; the Homeless World Cup brings this opportunity, to go training, to change people’s lives”.

Homelessness forces people into isolation, which affects their ability to share, communicate their thoughts and work with others.

When a homeless person gets involved in football they communicate and build relationships with others; they become teammates, learning to trust and share; they have a responsibility to attend training sessions and games, to be on time and prepared to participate. They feel part of something.

These skills and attributes are all transferable to daily life and therefore help a homeless person see that they can change their lives.

This is our real achievement; the impact that football is having in homeless people’s lives. Research tells us 70% of participants to any of our programmes have changed their lives for the better. It’s all about a hand-up rather than a hand-out. We simply change the scenery and the homeless people use this backdrop to change their lives. They get into education, re-engage with family, and introduce themselves to agencies to help find stable employment and a roof over their heads. Some of them were lucky enough to become involved with professional football clubs or have started their own social enterprises. We work in over 70 countries now so the impact is really significant.

There are hundreds of individual stories which make us really proud. Michelle da Silva, a young girl from Brazil performed fantastically well at our annual event in Copenhagen in 2007 and won the best female player of the tournament. Soon afterwards she became a professional player and then represented Brazil in their under 21 futsal team.

The list goes on: David is now running his own social enterprise in Scotland; Patrick from France, is now working with Paris St Germain, the professional Football Club based in Paris; James, has just announced he is moving into a flat in England; Homkant, has become the coach of the Indian Team for the Homeless World Cup tournament; Sarah and Ginan, who are involved with and running our National Partners organisations in Uganda and Indonesia…….and on and on.

The list is long. But at the end, they all have marvellous stories of personal improvement behind them. People have changed their lives completely. Some are now leaders in their own communities and are putting something back. Their journey started from being homeless to kicking a small round ball and the difference is there for all to see. And this is what drives us on: the impact which creates change in people’s lives.

As I say, we now have National Partners in over 70 countries throughout the world. We are helping them to build their capacities to extend the projects they run to reach all major cities through the development of national networks. They are working with thousands of homeless people every day. We are currently beginning to establish regional hubs to support their strengths in management, football development and social enterprise. As long as we create impact, so we will keep growing our organisation so that more and more can change their lives accordingly.

We still face many challenges but with more partners and more people understanding what we do, we know that we are on the right path. It is very hard at times but it is the impact which drives us on. The individual stories of people who have simply used football to change their lives bring much light into the organisation. In the end it is simple: football changes lives. Homelessness can be eradicated. Simple.

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