Few chances go a-begging at Homeless World Cup
Cup finals are notoriously cagey affairs with players keen to avoid mistakes in a match which could well define their career. That trend was bucked at the weekend by the Brazilian men and women who made it a double triumph for the hosts in the 8th annual Homeless World Cup.
It was an all-South American affair in the final of the men’s tournament as Brazil ran riot against Chile with a 6-0 dismantling of La Roja. Copacabana Beach bore witness to some trademark Brazilian flair under the floodlights. Just shy of what would have been the former Beatle’s 70th birthday the improbably named Jhon Lennon got his name on the scoresheet.
By the time referee “Shoes” Mohono halted the bombardment of Chilean goalkeeper Andy Berrios’ goalmouth the Copacabana crowd were in full-blown carnival mode. Before watching Juan Erazo and Nicolas Paraud coach the host’s male team to victory the spectators had been treated to the Brazilian women’s 7-3 tonking of Mexico.
After over 300 games of 4-a-side during eight days which featured 64 nations the Homeless World Cup is clearly remaining on the up since the first tournament was held in 2003. The benefits of the tournament is even something Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger can agree on.
20 years before the Homeless World Cup kicked-off in Graz, Austria the tournament’s president Mel Young co-founded The Big Issue in Scotland. Now recognised as one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs Young knows with the world’s homeless population standing at an estimated one billion his work is still in its infancy.
“We need to create a world where homelessness does not exist. Over the decades governments have failed to achieve this and the global economy is creating a world of two halves – one for the rich and the other for the poor. We live in two worlds within one where one half is invisible to the other. It is absolutely unsustainable.”
The lifelong Hibernian fan’s idea behind the Homeless World Cup was to bring people living on the streets together to work on solutions to their personal plight. The majority of the organising staff of the Homeless World Cup are former players who got their lives back in order after involvement with the tournament. Young sees caused for optimism from Easter Road to Easter Island.
“The Homeless World Cup is a gigantic effort creating real, significant change. When human beings decide to move forward, they can move mountains. More people getting involved will turn the trickle into a torrent and we will change the world forever.”
Despite the social and economic strides being made by the present government in Brazil the country still suffers from a housing deficit of close to seven million. The big city favelas in Brazil represent some the toughest living conditions in the world.
There are examples such as striker Michelle da Silva who went from a desperate life in Rio de Janeiro’s ‘City of God’ to the verge of representing Brazil at next month’s Women’s Copa America. However, there are far more stories of footballers using the tournament to help themselves deal with everyday social problems such as alcohol abuse rather than a forge a career as a professional player.
Miguel represented Chile at the 2006 Homeless World Cup in Cape Town after eight years of sleeping rough. After battling against a drug addiction which consumed a decade of his life Miguel now has a home, a job and is preparing for fatherhood.
Miguel uses his time running a Soccer School in one of Santiago’s roughest neighbourhoods. He invites youngsters on hard times to use football as a way out of trouble.
“This is what is brilliant about the Homeless World Cup and the Street Football Project in Chile. Now I have all this. I have a life.”
Another South American to have benefited from the Homeless World Cup and retained involvement with the organisation is Paraguayan Francisca Recalde.
Along with the unforgettable experiences of seeing an ocean and a kangaroo for the first time while representing her country at the Melbourne tournament in 2008 Francisca also found the confidence to get a teaching assistant job when she returned home.
Between classes Francisca still finds time to strap on her boots, she helped coach the female Paraguayan team in neighbouring Brazil during this latest tournament.
With 4,500 children sleeping on the streets of Buenos Aires the latest edition of this tournament being held in South America felt like homeless football coming home. It was also a timely reminder of the microscopic impact the FIFA World Cup will have on social welfare when it hits Brazil in four years time.
The same month as the 2010 Homeless World Cup was played in Brazil, only 5,000 people turned up to watch Orlando Pirates play Free State Stars in the Soccer City Stadium, built at a cost of US$440 million. 3,000 punters turned up to watch Platinum Stars’ trip to Ajax Cape Town at the Green Point Stadium, construction cost US$600 million. Meanwhile Platinum Stars entertaining AmaZulu brought 200 through the gate at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, subject to a recent US$48,000,000 refit.
It’s hard to refute Jimmy Greaves’ remark that “football is a funny old game”, it’s just a pity that the joke is often in very poor taste.Tagged in: Brazil, football, Homeless World Cup, Mel Young, South America
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