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Homeless World Cup Another Success

  • 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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