Photo: Richard Sharman/Photoworx
By Angela Dorizas
Melbourne has opened its doors to the world’s neediest, as homeless men and women representing 56 countries compete in the sixth annual Homeless World Cup football tournament.
The Homeless World Cup founder and president Mel Young said the tournament and associated community programs were founded to help tackle homelessness.
“Today, one billion people in our world are homeless and that’s not sustainable,” he said.
“We have come together to do something about it. This is a very special day for the players and the teams. This is a very important moment in history right now.”
The mixed teams of homeless men and women were formed through national grassroots soccer programs. Since its beginnings in 2003, the World Cup has initiated street soccer programs in more than 60 nations, with around 30,000 players each year. Participants in the street soccer clinics are given the chance to represent their country in the annual world cup tournament.
The event organisers said that through the program 73 per cent of players have transformed their lives for the better by ending their alcohol and drug addictions; seeking education, employment and homes; reuniting with families; and pursuing sporting careers as football players and coaches.
The 2008 world cup is hosted by The Big Issue and supported by the Victorian Government.
Premier of Victoria John Brumby said that at a time of great need for welfare and charitable services the Homeless World Cup empowered people to “turn their lives around.”
“There has never been a more important time to focus our attention on people in our community,” Mr Brumby said at the official opening in Federation Square.
“Welfare and charitable organisations are already experiencing an increase in demand for their services and with the current economic climate, it’s only going to increase.”
As a major partner, the City of Melbourne funded the Homeless World Cup Medical Support program which offers participants the opportunity to learn First Aid and develop Sports Trainer management skills.
“The eleven participants who have successfully completed the program now have the opportunity to join staff at the Medical Care Centre during the Homeless World Cup assisting the qualified medical practitioners with first aid,” said City of Melbourne commerce and marketing director, Scott Chapman.
“The training and experience aim to provide a long term legacy and assist with future employment opportunities."
The first match of this year’s tournament saw the Australian Street Socceroos defeated 3-0 by Team Austria. But on the second day, the Street Socceroos defeated Rwanda 4-3.
The matches were refereed by international FIFA World Cup referee Kim Milton Nielsen of Denmark.
The 6th Homeless World Cup runs until 7 December 2008. The final game will be screened live on SBS TV from 5-6pm on Sunday 7 December.
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