The international Homeless World Cup (HWC) gives homeless people a goal. Friday 25th March, Manchester United Foundation’s training ground, dozens of hopefuls attended England’s national finals, all aiming for a place in the final eight to represent England at the world finals in Paris 2011.
Although lots of great talent turned up for the trials, there was more to the event than the competition, it’s aim is to communicate about homelessness through the universal language of football. It has exceeded all expectations, inspiring thousands and helped many to turn their life around.
There are over 1 billion homeless people across the world. The HWC was founded in 2003 by Austrian, Harald Schmied and Scotsman, Mel Young, co-founder of The Big Issue that has helped thousands of homeless people since it's launch in 1993.
The first tournament was held in Graz, Austria in 2003 with 18 teams attending from around the world. Not only are HWC responsible for developing the internationally recognised football tournament, but also partner with national grass roots projects, helping homeless people all year round.
“Immense”, “amazing” and “legendary” all words the players used to describe the thought of United legends such as Ryan Giggs and Teddy Sheringham gracing the turf of The Cliff, training ground. Manchester United Foundation generously give up their legendary training facilities for the national trials which gives the players a taste of the life of a pro. There's no mistaking the changes that the HWC brings to the people involved. One player said it makes him feel “wanted”, highlighting the impact on participants. It has been an eye-opener for many homeless people, realising that they're not on their own and support networks are available. The likes of Arsene Wenger (president of Paris 2011 HWC Local Organising Committee), Rio Ferdinand and Eric Cantona (official ambassadors of the HWC) have made generous statements promoting the event.
Eric Cantona visited the Copenhagen World Cup in 2007 where he held a coaching session with players from all the competing teams. All of the players left with memories that will stay forever. Players were astounded as they showed off their skills in front of "the Eric Cantona". Danish homeless world cup goalkeeper, Teddy, left the Copenhagen tournament with a memory that will never leave him. Not many goalies can claim to have kept out a shot from Eric Cantona. A tale he will never tire of telling!
Cantona's passion for football and the HWC is shown in this statement -
“Football unites; it inspires and it energises individual’s communities and the world. Football and the Homeless World Cup has the power to fire up a person to excel as a human being, to change their lives for the better. It is fantastic that football brings this opportunity to their lives.”
This article was written by Eddie, a 14 year old crew member of The Reporters’ Academy, a media production company run by young people www.TheReportersAcademy.com