by Matt Ayres
The countdown for this year’s Homeless World Cup is on. Many of us dream of wearing our nation’s colours and helping to lead our country to victory via a football in the back of the opponent’s net. By allowing homeless athletes around the world to do just that, Mel Young hopes to help more people transform their lives for the better.
“A staggering 80+% return to full time accommodation, education and employment after taking part in the Homeless World Cup, literally transformed by the experience of representing their nation,” explains Mel, who is President and Co-Founder of the Homeless World Cup and also co-founded The Big Issue in Scotland.
This year’s Homeless World Cup, also known as the International Street Soccer Tournament, kicks off in Santiago, Chile on October 18 and runs until October 26. With 43 nations competing for the men’s Homeless World Cup and 13 women’s teams competing for the women’s Homeless World Cup, a total of 57 teams will do sporting battle in approximately 350 matches over the week long tournament in Santiago.
Players taking part in the tournament can only do so once. As part of the event, 74 nations worldwide run street soccer programmes to positively affect the lives of over 100,000 people each year. These programmes help participants to find alternative lifestyle choices from the gangs, addictions and the crippling isolation of homelessness that catalyse human tragedy across the planet.
The matches that make up this global event are different to the football face-offs that we saw at this year’s World Cup in Brazil – they are fast-paced, four-a-side games that take place on a 22 x 16 metre pitch and last a total of 14 minutes each.
You can find out more about this excellent cause and sign up to the new supporter’s club, whose members already include 1998 World Cup winner Emmanuel Petit and Celtic FC captain Scott Brown, via the event website.