Monday, April 21, 2008

5 Questions With The Homeless World Cup

As I was combing the headlines for more exciting sporting events I came across one that caught my eye – recruiting for Homeless World Cup. Homeless World Cup!? I thought it was some sort of sick joke at first. Guess what? It isn’t. This is a serious event that brings people together for the world’s most popular sport. It takes place in different host countries every year and has teams from around the world competing. The event truly supports my belief that sport not only unifies, but empowers.

Kat Byles, Media & Communications Director of the Homeless World Cup was kind enough to take the time to participate in an interview. Kat is into her fourth year at the Homeless World Cup. She says that she loves the combination of uniting at least 48 nations of soccer players with courage, determination, and an inspirational life story plus the grit, spirit, and glory of soccer played with passion and heart. The Homeless World Cup is soccer where there is everything to play for and that has the power to change lives and change the world.

1. What is the Homeless World Cup and when did it begin? Is this an annual event? Are there participants around the world and who can be involved? Is there an age or gender requirement?

The Homeless World Cup is a world-class, annual international football tournament addressing health, education, and welfare. People who are homeless take a once in a lifetime opportunity to wear their jersey for their country and change their lives forever. It has triggered and supports grass roots football programs in over 60 nations and right now it is estimated that around 30,000 players who are homeless are training to get a place on their national team for the Melbourne 2008 Homeless World Cup 1-7 December 2008. You have to be 16 years old or above, because it is very difficult for people below that age to travel across borders without a guardian, and there is no age limit. Most players are between 16-25 years old and both male and female. It reaches the most marginalised group of people in our world today and gets them involved in sport, enables them to regain their self-esteem, respect, and a healthy lifestyle.

2. How does a person get recruited to be on a team for the cup and then how are they funded when they make the team?

Each national team has a different recruitment procedure. In the USA there are currently about 18 projects across the country inviting people who are homeless to participate in training. They put up posters, contact all the hostels, put adverts in the street papers. In late June/July this year there will be a national tournament in Washington DC with one team from each project taking part and each player vying for a place on the National USA Homeless World Cup team. The USA team raises money to take the players to Melbourne for the Homeless World Cup, once in Melbourne all expenses are taken care of by the host nation.

3. What happens to people after the events are over? Are they back to homelessness or do they have new opportunities?

Players return home knowing that they have taken the courage to represent their country and stand proud. They know that they can do anything that they put their mind to if they want it enough. 77% of players significantly change their lives after participating. They come off drugs and alcohol, move into homes, jobs, education, training, repair relationships, become coaches and soccer players with semi-pro teams. 94% have a renewed motivation for life. This is a radical leap forward for social inclusion programmes, which typically achieve 30% success and often lower. Soccer has tremendous power to change lives, change the world.

4. What have been some of your biggest success stories with this event? Is there a particular individual or team that has had remarkable success?

Every single player participating in the Homeless World Cup has a remarkable story to share that is inspirational and demonstrates tremendous courage and formidable human spirit. Michelle from Brazil has just been selected for the Brazil National Team in the South Amercia's Cup; Cheri from Liberia has won a four year college scholarship in the USA. Sarah from Uganda became homeless when her mother was abducted by the rebels and murdered. Sarah now looks after her 6 siblings and after representing Uganda at the Homeless World Cup and is a peace ambassador speaking to local schools about solutions for peace in Uganda. David Duke was homeless and an alcoholic when he played for Scotland in Gothenburg 2004. At the next tournament he became the coach for Scotland and then eventually the manager taking Scotland to victory at the Copenhagen 2007 Homeless World Cup. In between he came off alcohol, completed a HND qualification in community development, and bought his own home. He is the David Beckham of the Homeless World Cup. This is just a few of the many thousands of players who stand proud. Russia held their first national championship to select their team in 2006 and for the first time the Russian media were discussing the issue of homelessness in a serious way. There are 5 million people homeless in Russia and the issue is taboo.

5. What can the average sports fan do to become involved with the event? In addition, will the event be televised or how can we watch it around the world?

If you are in Melbourne join us 1-7 December 2008 in Federation Square for some fantastic soccer. And if you can't make it to Melbourne you can watch online and check out all the fixtures and results on the website.

Plus Kicking It, narrated by Colin Farrell, a documentary following 6 nations on their journey to the Cape Town 2006 Homeless World Cup will be broadcast by ESPN towards the end of 2008.

We would really appreciate your support to make the Homeless World Cup happen for tens of thousands of players around the world. A few dollars can make a big difference and fans can join the Fan Club, buy the t-shirt, or make a donation.

You can also find this group on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and YouTube. Their online store has more than t-shirts as well, check them out and get involved!


Chick in the Huddle said...

very cool story, thanks for sharing this!

Apryl DeLancey said...

Thank you for reading and stopping by!

Doret said...

Thanks for sharing. I had never heard of this cup before.

Apryl DeLancey said...

Yeah - it is very cool! There is a newer documentary out about it as well. Check out the HWC website.