An event which can help change the fortunes of homeless people around the world – the UEFA-backed Homeless World Cup – is underway in Melbourne, Australia, and continues until 7 December.
A total of 56 nations, including eight all-female teams participating in the first ever Women's Homeless World Cup, will play a total of 349 matches over the week-long tournament. Matches will be played on three purpose-built stadiums at Federation Square and Birrarung Marr, in the centre of Melbourne, including a spectacular grandstand with viewing capacity for 2,500 people right in the heart of Federation Square. Fast and furious street soccer matches run from 11.00 until 19.00 local time. Entry to the event is free. Former top referee Kim Milton Nielsen will also be refereeing matches at the tournament.
The aim of the Homeless World Cup is to raise awareness of the issues facing those on the streets and to help end homelessness and poverty worldwide. The inaugural tournament took place in Graz, Austria in 2003, uniting 18 nations. Since then it has gained great momentum in Gothenburg, Sweden (2004), Edinburgh, Scotland (2005), Cape Town, South Africa (2006) and Copenhagen, Denmark (2007). The event will visit Milan in 2009.
In addition to a great sporting spectacle, the Homeless World Cup has a long-lasting impact on the players involved. Over 70 per cent of players significantly change their lives for the better, including finding homes, employment, coming off drugs and alcohol, reconnecting with their families and even becoming coaches and football players.
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.
Strong link with football
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.
Australia's soccer stars are urging support for the Homeless World Cup. "The Homeless World Cup is not just a tournament – it's an opportunity for people to change their lives. I urge everybody to get behind the teams, spur them onto victory, and help them give themselves a fresh start," said West Ham United FC's Lucas Neill, who, along with other Australian footballers – Jason Culina (PSV Eindhoven), David Carney (Sheffield United FC), Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers FC), Scott McDonald (Celtic FC) and Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory FC) – have all recorded personal messages, which can be viewed on the Big Screen at Federation Square during the tournament and on the tournament website www.homelessworldcup.org.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.