French great Marcel Desailly took part in an exhibition match in Rome today to mark 100 days until Milan stages the 7th Homeless World Cup – a UEFA-backed international tournament that uses football to energise homeless people to change their lives.
Desailly was an onlooker during a first half in which the Italy homeless team established a 4-1 lead, and although things improved after the break for an All Stars Team captained by the former AC Milan midfielder and featuring ex-players and members of the media, the Azzurri held on to win 6-5. The victory will give the hosts a boost as they look to lift their third Homeless World Cup crown on home soil between 6 and 13 September, having triumphed in Edinburgh in 2003 and Gothenburg the following year.
The annual event, won by Afghanistan in Melbourne last year, will involve 500 players from 48 national sides when it takes place at a street soccer stadium at the Arena Civic – a historic venue which staged Italy's first international match against France in May 1910. Mel Young, tournament co-founder and president, told uefa.com: "Last year's event in Melbourne was the best ever and I don't see why Milan can't better that. The world's media will be there and it's an opportunity to show we can end homelessness through football; football has great power to bring about change."
Italy player Anderson de Souza, perhaps the star of the exhibition game played in scorching temperatures in the shadow of the Colosseum, said: "I really enjoyed playing today, it was a wonderful experience for all of us. It was great fun to play against a former star like Desailly. The Homeless World Cup is a great opportunity to help people who really need it. Sport can make a great contribution towards changing your life, giving you extra motivation when you have problems."
Significant life change
There are one billion homeless people in the world, including 50,000 in Italy. More than 70 per cent of players at the Homeless World Cup experience a significant life change – coming off drugs and alcohol; moving into homes, jobs, education and training; repairing relationships; becoming coaches and players with semi-pro teams or social entrepreneurs. Since 2003, the Homeless World Cup has engaged more than 100,000 players and has triggered football programmes in over 70 nations.
Desailly, a FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™ winner in France's colours, added: "I'm very happy to be connected with the Homeless World Cup and with all the teams involved. There's a belief that sport can change the world, and that football can used to support and help people around the world – which is great."
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.