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September 12, 2011

Homeless World Cup

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Excerpts from Molly Guinness's August 21, 2011 Independent story follow.

Football teams from 48 countries have arrived in Paris for the ninth annual Homeless World Cup, which kicks off today. Sport, the organisers say, is the best method of rehabilitation. More than 70 per cent of players in previous World Cups have ended up getting jobs or houses or getting over addictions.

"We didn't believe the research at first, but we checked and checked," the Scottish joint-founder of the Homeless World Cup, Mel Young, said. "Being part of a team creates a change and allows people to participate in something international. You watch them standing proud and almost growing physically."

The teams are picked from local leagues and wear the national football strip. There are 48 men's and 16 women's teams taking part. Of tens of thousands who tried out for their national sides, 512 players made the cut. In Mexico alone, 17,000 people attended trials.

Turning up to practice and joining a team works as a gradual socialising force. When a training session on the edge of Paris on Friday ended in an altercation, the French team was given a talking-to by its coach. "Do not pick up the ball as if you're going to throw it at someone," he said. "Remember, there are seven guys who've been left at home. You must respect the captain, and you must respect each other."

Each team plays to the end of the week-long competition, which is being held just under the Eiffel Tower. There are trophies but no prize money. Each country foots the bill for its team – governments and sponsors (including Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, above) make up most of the funding. The French sports ministry provided €250,000 (£220,000) to the project this year. "There is no money for housing but they can give for this," said Jérome Le Dû, who helps the French team with housing and social problems.

The draw was to take place last night at France's national stadium, the Stade de France, a coup for the Homeless World Cup. "People would normally walk across the road to avoid these people, now they are letting their kids get their autographs," said Mr Young.

Scotland (top and below, lifting its trophy) won the Men's Cup, beating Mexico 4-3 in the final.

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Kenya took the Women's Cup, beating Mexico in the final, also by 4-3.

From UEFA.com: "More than 300 street soccer matches were played during the eight-day tournament which involved 64 national teams of homeless players participating on the Champs de Mars, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower."

September 12, 2011 at 05:01 PM | Permalink


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