Over 500 players from 53 countries will gather at Champs de Mars, Paris, as the ninth edition of the Homeless World Cup kicks off today.
The week-long street football tournament for the homeless will see Brazil defending the title they won last year in Rio de Janeiro. The event, consisting of over 200 14-minute games, is an attempt to integrate the participants – current or previously homeless – into mainstream society.
Mel Young, President of the Homeless World Cup Foundation believes that football provides the perfect way to go about achieving this aim.
“Football is a universal language that unites homeless people,” Young told The Express Tribune. “It helps them feel pride in representing their country at a global event.
“Homeless people may be so disoriented that they won’t know how to survive even if provided with shelter. They need support from society and for that perceptions about them have to change.”
Great crowds expected
The tournament has always received good crowds and Young was confident of a fine turnout in Paris as well.
“We’re expecting some great crowds. Back in 2008 in Melbourne, we had 100,000 people attending. We’re expecting a similar turnout here in Paris.”
With Pakistan’s streets witnessing thousands of homeless people, Young was hopeful that a team from the country will be participating in future events.
“Although in the past we hadn’t made any attempts to include Pakistan, we’re hopeful that a side from there will be taking part next year in Mexico City.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.