The Homeless World Cup is currently taking place in George Square, Glasgow, from 10-16 July. It is a pioneering event which started in 2001 and now has involvement from more than 70 countries, with more wanting to join in. It touches 100,000 homeless people a year through football but, as Mel Young, Co-Founder and President of Homeless World Cup states, it barely scratches the surface with over 100,000,000 people homeless globally (see next paragraph). We are delighted to say that BAFTS’ member Bala Sport is providing the Fairtrade-certified footballs for the event, which is co-sponsored by Scotmid Cooperative. The Homeless World Cup works with a network of 73 organisations, representing 73 nations. They all use football to help homeless and socially disadvantaged people around the world.
As a bit of background to the figures quoted above, it was 2005 when the last global survey was attempted by the UN. At that time the figure of homeless people worldwide was estimated at 100,000,000, with as many as 1.6 billion lacking adequate housing as per Habitat 2015. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there are varying definitions of homelessness from country to country, and census data rarely applies to those residing in slums, squatting or those people who are frequently relocated. In other words, the figures are likely to be a lot higher. For more in-depth information, please visit their website above (under “About”, our National Partners).
The Homeless World Cup draws players from both developed and underdeveloped countries such as Scotland, Sweden, Australia, Egypt, Mexico, Grenada, Kyrgyzstan, Chile, India and the Ivory Coast. A full list of countries and their national partners is available on the Homeless World Cup website. Many young adults, both male and female, have fought hard to represent their country and for some, it is the first time they have been outside of their homeland. In many cases, the opportunity to play football has been a chance to overcome personal difficulties, with 500 players being selected each year by the global network of street football partners. Unsurprisingly, 94% of participants say that the Games have positively impacted their lives, and 77% say that their lives have changed significantly due to their involvement.
The touching player stories highlight in-country networks making a massive difference – such as the Big Issue Korea, which helped a young man back on his feet after a work accident left him living in homeless shelters and depressed. The homeless shelter put him in contact with Big Issue Korea and thanks to them, he started playing football. Similarly, a homeless single mother of two in Kenya heard about Street soccer and ended up leading her country’s national team to victory in 2011, a story which has inspired many other girls in her community. Not only that, as a result of her footballing successes, she won a scholarship which enabled her to return to education, and she now coaches herself.
Of course, the plight of homelessness is not just a problem in less-developed countries, and there are player stories of illness, difficulties and addiction which have been turned around in European countries too. The Cup is a great opportunity for players to unite in enjoying a common passion whilst highlighting the work which still needs doing on this front.