Guardian, Friday, December 5, 2008 1:15 PM
This year's Homeless World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, has been another success at providing life skills for recovering addicts and changing public attitudes toward homeless people, writes James
Smith. Even the annual criticism that the $1.5 million spent organizing the events could have been better spent on other projects for the homeless has been muted.
The first Homeless
World Cup took place in Austria in 2003, and tournament founder Mel Young
said that its medium- and long-term benefits far outweigh such concerns about whether or not the money is
well spent. "Homelessness isn't just about getting a house," said Young. "People have become so marginalized in the process of becoming homeless that even if they get a house they
might not be ready for it." The tournament provides "a method of giving people life skills so they develop confidence and self-esteem."
Smith reports that the Street
Soccer programs the tourney has spawned across the world are booming -- in Kenya, for example, 3,000 people attended trials to try and make the country's roster. With the support of sponsors,
players are going on to find jobs and homes, and several former players at the Cup have returned as their country's coaches. A French player went on to become a coach at Paris St Germain, but
still takes a week's vacation every year to work at the tournament.
The final takes place this weekend, with Scotland tipped to become the first country to retain the title. More
importantly, as England player Romain Coleman
said: "It's all about unity -- how one ball can bring nations together."
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