The countdown has begun in earnest to the start of the 2008 Homeless World Cup, which will see a record 56 nations compete for glory in the Australian city of Melbourne.
A cosmopolitan blend of homeless people from across the globe, including holders Scotland, two-time winners Italy and minnows East Timor, will take part in the UEFA-backed tournament in early December. The aim: to raise awareness of the issues facing those on the streets and to help end homelessness and poverty worldwide.
"The sixth Homeless World Cup in Melbourne is the pinnacle of the year-round work by grassroots football programmes in 56 nations, which bring together over 30,000 players for training, to rebuild their lives and communities," said tournament founder and president Mel Young, who has seen his brainchild grow impressively since 18 countries entered the inaugural competition in 2003. "The Homeless World Cup is growing fast, travelling to the far corners of the globe to engage people who are homeless, to change hearts and minds, and to pioneer imaginative solutions to address this key global issue."
The life-changing nature of the event has been proved by research, which shows that the competition has made a difference in the lives of more than 70 per cent of participants. Some have even become coaches and players with professional or semi-professional clubs; others have won their own private battles with alcohol or drugs, repaired personal relationships, or moved into homes, jobs, education and training.
John Brumby, premier of the state of Victoria, launched the official countdown with 100 days to go before the week-long tournament kicks off on 1 December. He said: "The Homeless World Cup is more than another sporting event for Melbourne. It's an event that uses the positive power of sport to change the lives of homeless and marginalised people around the world. The event is a great example of how sport can be used to reconnect homeless and marginalised people with the community, and to rebuild lives, confidence and self-esteem."
This year will also witness the first women's Homeless World Cup. Eight teams – Cameroon, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Zambia, Liberia and Paraguay – will compete for the honour of becoming the inaugural female champions. The 80 players will be hoping to emulate Brazil's Michele da Silva, who was voted best female player at last year's tournament in Copenhagen before going on to be selected by her country's Under-21 side.
By adopting a flexible and clear social responsibility policy, UEFA is supporting the belief that football should be used as a tool for broader benefit within society, employing its potential to influence attitudes and behaviour beyond the confines of the stadium. Since 1999, UEFA has reinvested fines imposed in UEFA competitions for specific purposes such as humanitarian aid, social and educational projects. The Homeless World Cup receives UEFA backing because it has a strong link with football, has a set of clearly defined goals and successfully develops the use of football as a means of fostering inclusion.
For more information, log on to homelessworldcup.org.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.