Homelessness is more than not having a roof over your head; it’s about loss of identity and social isolation. Homeless people are some of the most vulnerable and ostracized in society.
Across the world, homelessness manifests itself in different extremes; from the hidden homeless (people who exist out of sight, couch surfing) to those more visible, sleeping rough and living in shelters. In reality, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ homeless person
Next month, players from over 50 countries will be convening in Wales for the 2019 Homeless World Cup, for the love of football and the desire to drive change. One goal of the Homeless World Cup is to break down and challenge negative stereotypes of homelessness.
Often, when members of the public see a person who is homeless on the street, the common response is to avoid conversation and eye contact, as homeless people have been stereotyped as dangerous or mentally unwell. During the Homeless World Cup, the image of a homeless person is completely transformed. By turning a street corner into a football pitch and giving the players a football to represent their country, suddenly they are no longer avoided. Instead they are cheered on by thousands of spectators.
The efforts of the Homeless World Cup stretch way beyond the action on the pitch. Beyond the main tournament, the Cup has the support of partners around the world who work with the players, helping them to overcome a variety of issues from addiction to self-confidence and lack of motivation. During the tournament, players learn the benefits of working as a team, meeting new people from different cultures and becoming ambassadors for their country.
To ensure the tournament is as exciting as possible for players and spectators alike, the Homeless World Cup has its own unique format taking inspiration from Street Soccer. Unlike a traditional 11-a-side tournament, teams consist of four players on each side and the match lasts seven minutes each half, creating a thrilling, fast paced game. While the tournament is competitive, it’s also incredibly inclusive. Losing teams are not sent home as soon as they are knocked out of the tournament. Instead, they are encouraged to stay to cheer on the remaining teams and collect their celebratory medal on the final evening.
The Homeless World Cup tournament aims to create hope, drive change and impact individual’s lives, but the work doesn’t stop with the final whistle. By bringing 50+ countries together, the Cup highlights the scale of the homeless issue globally, illustrating to the public that homelessness is a worldwide problem that needs to be tackled.
Through the publicity of the tournament, organizers hope to educate the public on the homelessness crisis, with the aim of increasing funding, volunteering, optimism and gestures of goodwill – creating impact and big change.
The Homeless World Cup takes place in Cardiff, Wales beginning July 27th.
The Homelessness Crisis: Tackling the Misconceptions Through the Power of Sport
Mel Young, Huffington Post