Photos: All rights reserved by Homeless World Cup Official 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

While the UEFA European Championships kicks off in Poland and Ukraine in the summer many football fans are turning their attention to an alternative football tournament, where the stars don't drive sports cars and they certainly don’t hang around with supermodels. In fact, many of the stars of this year's tournament, which kicks off in October, don't even have roofs over their heads. Welcome to the 2012 Homeless World Cup.
One billion homeless 
It’s a truly shocking fact – there are more than one billion homeless people living in the world today. Sadly, more often than not, homeless people are frowned upon by the majority of those who are more fortunate than them in society. The homeless are often regarded as second-class citizens (and worse) by many cultures in which the ethos of the ‘me first’ way of life means that there is no place for somebody who does not even have a roof over their head. Many, ignorant of the real world, falsely believe that homeless people have only got themselves to blame for getting into their predicament. And yet there are as many different explanations for how an individual becomes homeless as there are days in the year.

Mercifully, there are those people out there that care enough about the plight of the homeless to actually do something about it.

World Champions Scotland 
The Homeless World Cup is an annual international football tournament, uniting teams of people who are homeless. It gives hundreds of individuals the incredible opportunity, we have all dreamt of at one time or another, of representing their country at football and, at the same time, does more than practically any other global project to highlight the status of the homeless around the world.

After a humble but none-the-less impressive beginning in 2003 in Austria, the Homeless World Cup has already led to grass roots projects in dozens of countries involving 25,000 homeless and excluded individuals. If all goes according to plan then this year’s tournament, which is being held in Mexico City from 6-14 October 2012, will have 73 nations participating for the title of World Homeless Champions, an honour currently held by Scotland.

The Headquarters of the organization behind the tournament is based in Edinburgh, and their raison d’etre is a simple but ambitious one: “The Homeless World Cup exists to end homelessness, so we all have a home, a basic human need.”

Their stated target, meanwhile, is: “to be the most reputable organisation to use sports as a means for social inclusion, involving one million players by 2012.” 

Changing lives for the better 

The impact for those involved in the various projects is, according to the organizers, “consistently significant year on year with 73% of players changing their lives for the better by coming off drugs and alcohol, moving into jobs, education, homes, training, reuniting with families and even going on to become players and coaches for pro or semi-pro football teams.” 

The Homeless World Cup now has many supporters around the world, and these include high profile organizations such as UEFA and the United Nations. Ambassadors include the legendary Eric Cantona and Chelsea star Didier Drogba, who says:

"The Homeless World Cup is an event that can change the life of anyone, not simply to help them become a professional footballer, but so that they can become a man, in everyday life. So that they can develop with regard to today’s society, which is not an easy society for everyone and that means above all developing values, human values, which I think are very important."

Achieving the seemingly impossible

Research carried out 6 months after each tournament shows that, on average, 92 per cent of those involved believe ‘they have a new motivation for life’, while 44 per cent ‘have improved their housing situation’.

As if to prove that anything is possible, if you are determined enough, two of the success stories involve a Scotsman and a Ukrainian: 

David Duke represented Scotland in 2004, cured his alcohol dependency, and in 2007 guided Scotland to the title of World Homeless Champions as Manager of the national team. 

Meanwhile, one of the stars of the 2004 World Cup was Yevgen Adamenko. His golden boot performance five years ago attracted bags of attention at home, and the talented Ukrainian went on to play professional football in his homeland.

Street soccer rules!

It goes without saying that the transition from street soccer player to professional footballer is quite some feat. Particularly when you realize that the rules of ‘Homeless World Cup Street Soccer’ are rather different to the XI-a-side version we are all so familiar with. Here is a brief run down of some of the official rules for this year’s tournament:

Players - Are male or female and at least 16 years old. 
In order to qualify for their national team they must have been homeless at some point after August 2011, in accordance with the national definition of homelessness or make their main living income as a street paper vendor or they are an asylum seeker currently without positive asylum status. They also qualify if they are currently in drug or alcohol rehabilitation and have been homeless at some point in the past two years. They are not permitted to participate in more than one Homeless World Cup tournament.

Teams  - Teams can be all male, all female or mixed with a maximum of 4 players per team on the court. This should consist of 3 outfield players and one goalkeeper plus 4 rolling substitute players.
Players are not allowed to participate in more than one Homeless World Cup, which makes the tournament democratic in a way that no other sport can boast.

Duration of Matches - Two halves of seven minutes each.  Homeless World Cup Court - Size of court: 22 m long x 16 m wide.
Goal size: 4 m wide x 1.30m high. 

Who will be champs in 2012?

Last year the title went to Scotland but Brazil are currently ranked as the best team in the world, having finished in the top three places in the last three tournaments. 

For more information about the Homeless World Cup either click here or follow the link below: