Former top international referee Kim Milton Nielsen has thrown his support behind the UEFA-backed 2008 Homeless World Cup in Melbourne, and will be refereeing matches in the life-changing international tournament, which runs from 1 to 7 December at Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia.
'A great highlight'
After refereeing at last year's Homeless World Cup in Copenhagen, including the final won by Scotland and attended by HRH Crown Prince Fredrik of Denmark, Milton Nielsen experienced first-hand the power of football to change lives. "I saw all the positive things it gave to the players," said Milton Nielsen, who will be part of a 35-man refereeing team in Melbourne. "The whole week was a great highlight - the happiness and the way the players enjoy the tournament was fantastic.
"The Homeless World Cup is an excellent initiative to inspire an excluded group," he added. "Football has the ability to gather people and to be used as a catalyst for changing lives." While accustomed to working in a high-pressure environment, his advice to players in the Melbourne 2008 Homeless World Cup is to "enjoy every second". "I hope everybody has a great tournament and meets a lot of good friends," Milton Nielsen said. "It is not only on the pitch that you win. To participate also makes you a winner."
A total of 56 national teams made up of homeless people will be competing in the sixth Homeless World Cup, with a total of 349 games to be played. The Homeless World Cup - which has UEFA's full support - has triggered and supports grassroots football programmes in over 60 nations engaging 30,000 players who are homeless. The Melbourne event will include the first women's competition, with eight all-female teams lined up to play. Matches are played on a pitch measuring 22m x 16m and consist of two seven-minute halves, with four players per side on pitch - three field players and one in goal. The final takes place on Sunday 7 December.
The inaugural 18-team Homeless World Cup kicked off in Graz, Austria in 2003. Since then it has gained great momentum in Gothenburg (2004), Edinburgh (2005), Cape Town (2006) and Copenhagen (2007), and will be contested in Milan in 2009. The aim is to raise awareness of the issues facing those on the streets and to help end homelessness and poverty worldwide.
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. The competition is also supported by, among others, global ambassador Eric Cantona and international stars Didier Drogba and Rio Ferdinand.
For more information, log on to homelessworldcup.org
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