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The Homeless World Cup: the trophy and the wooden spoon

September 26 2009
England finishes third in its group, and Russia eventually triumphs Russia emerged victorious in the 2006 Homeless World Cup final, beating newcomers Kazakhstan 1-0 to secure the trophy in what was probably one of the lowest-scoring match of the tournament. The competition held in Cape Town saw 48 nations play 300 games, scoring total of 1,800 goals. Although the England team showed much skill and promise, a slow start lost them the chance of winning the cup during the week-long competition. President Mbeki welcomed the Homeless World Cup during his Heritage Day address saying: "We are very happy that Cape Town is hosting this important sporting event which, I am certain will further popularise participation in street soccer and other sports in our country." The first time a senior politician has supported the event drew an international media pack and secured televised coverage of the competition, also for the first-time. Another treat was in store for fans when Eusebio, aka The Black Panther and one of Portugal's greatest players in the 60s and 70s, officially kicked off the opening game. Host nation South Africa put their team, Bafowethu, against Chile in the first game, and lost. With the crowd behind them, they didn't disappoint, winning 2-0. On the second day, crowd frenzy knew no bounds as South Africa's favourite premier team, the Kaiser Chiefs, stepped on to the pitch to welcome the teams. Although morning rain delayed play, spirits remained high and another few hours of tough and passionate football entertained the fans. Of the 26 teams ranked from last year's cup held in Edinburgh, only Poland and Russia made it to the final stage of the competition. Mexico, making their tournament debut, finished in fourth place. The host nation was eventually knocked out by Russia. The England line-up included Nicky (Besnick) Meta, Tony Peacock, Adam Banda, Vincent Barton, Kevin Garrighan, Ricardo Brandao, Elsio Tavares and Paul Smith (Captain) The group stages saw their first match against Hong Kong and although they had a nervous start, going 1-0 down, regained their composure, went on the offensive and put the opposition under constant pressure, securing a convincing win of 11-1 on day one of the tournament. Subsequent games saw England play the Ukraine - a match full of controversy with a sending off for Nicky Meta and a penalty shoot-out. We all know how England loves penalties and, unfortunately, this proved to be another of those occasions, with the Ukraine eventually wining 3-2. Victories against the Czech Republic and Rwanda weren't enough to put England through and after losing to the eventual champions, they finished third in their group on 3 points. Other home nations performed excellently, with Ireland finishing top of Group Four and Scotland second in Group Seven after some tough matches. Both teams went home with trophies, Scotland beat Slovakia 4-3 to win the Big Issue Cape Town Cup, and Ireland won against Finland to win the City of Edinburgh Cup. Undiscouraged by their failure to secure a trophy, the England team returned home happy with finishing a not too shabby 13th out of 48 teams and enthusing about the experience. Paul Smith who captained the team throughout the tournament said: "I will never forget the people I've met in Cape Town, especially the people who have been or are still living on the streets." Richard Brown, managing director for The Big Issue North, which coordinated the England team, agrees: "Our lads were great ambassadors for their country. I'm sure the experience will have a lasting impression on the players and indeed all the staff, who have taken part in this year's event." Trials for the next Homeless World Cup will start in January. For anyone interested in taking up street soccer contact Street League on 020 8536 5330.