Monday, September 20, 2010

The 8th Homeless Football World Cup kicked off in Rio de Janeiro yesterday and Scotland have made a tremendous unbeaten start to the competition, beating Hungary 9-7 on Sunday and Namibia 8-2 and the Netherlands 7-5 today.

The competition is partly the brainchild of one of the founders of the Big Issue in Scotland, Mel Young, and the first tournament was held in 2003 in Graz, Austria and was won by the hosts.

Scotland's record in the World Cup ain't too shabby, winning the 2007 event in Copenhagen, Denmark and also notching three fourth place finishes, along with hosting the 2005 tournament in Edinburgh.

Hopes are high for the team in this year's tournament and they've made the perfect start so far.

It's a great tournament and has really made a difference to the players who have taken part in it over the years.

After the inaugural tournament in 2003, 31 of the 141 players who had taken part were in regular employment and off the streets one year later.

Following the event in Edinburgh in 2005, it's been recorded that 77% of the players involved "significantly changed their lives forever moving into jobs, education and training, coming off drugs and alcohol, finding homes and renewing relationships with their families". A fantastic figure.

Homelessness is a problem that blights so many of the big cities around the world today. I see it first hand every day in my own city and with my line of work. The tournament was originally conceived as a way to have a way of uniting people from different cultures and to actively encourage them to work together and make a difference. Nothing does that better than football. It's the world's game and the world's unifier.

To be eligible for the Homeless World Cup you need to be over 16; have been homeless at some point after the previous year's World Cup; or make your main living income as a streetpaper vendor; or be an asylum seekers who desn't have have positive asylum status or a work permit.

Matches are played on a court, street soccer style, and are 4 a side, including a goalie, with rolling subs and two seven minute halves.

The 2010 tournament runs from September 19th to 26th and features 43 national mens teams split into 8 groups (and 12 womens teams split into two groups). The Scots are in Group H and will complete their group games against Belgium tomorrow.

You can follow all the action, including some videos of the games, on the official Homeless World Cup website.

So head along there and give the lads your support and hopefully bring a second World Cup trophy back to Scotland.

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