The Homeless World Cup got underway in Melbourne today, bringing together 56 teams from across the globe, including England, Scotland and Ireland, for a unique street football tournament.
The tournament uses football as a catalyst to encourage people who are homeless to change their lives; and to change the attitudes of governments, media, public and key influencers to create better solutions to homelessness around the world.
The annual event unites teams of people who are homeless to take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent their country at the beautiful game.
It has triggered and supports grassroots football programs in over 60 nations engaging 30,000 homeless players all year round.
The opening day of the tournament, which includes 4-a-side matches played over 7 minutes each way, saw wins for England, 14-1 winners over Sweden, and Ireland, who triumphed 11-2 over USA.
Scotland lost their opening game on penalties to Afghanistan following a thrilling 5-5 draw.
This is the sixth Homeless World Cup and the largest to date, including the first Women’s Cup.
World-leading social entrepreneur Mel Young founded the tournament in 2003, where Graz in Austria played host to the inaugural tournament.
Since then it has gained great momentum in Gothenburg, Sweden (2004), Edinburgh, Scotland (2005), Cape Town, South Africa (2006) and Copenhagen, Denmark (2007). It will visit Milan, Italy in 2009.
Research consistently demonstrates that over 70 per cent of players involved in the tournament experience a significant life change. They come off drugs and alcohol, move into homes, jobs, education and training, repair relationships and even become coaches and players.
The legacy of the Melbourne event will be the roll out of 30 street soccer programs across Australia.
For more information on the Homeless World Cup, including match reports, photos, team profiles and much more, visit www.homelessworldcup.org.
How can I help?
The Homeless World Cup is possible because of all the people around the world uniting to support sport for social change.
You can help support the tournament in a number of ways – join the fan club from £10, buy the T-shirt, make a donation or raise some money via sponsorship.
To do your bit to help out, visit www.homelessworldcup.org.