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Homeless World Cup kicks off

September 25 2009
When you think of the World Cup, you could be forgiven for thinking of stars such as David Beckham or Wayne Rooney, but this year a different type of international football event is being held in Scotland From July 20 to 24, the Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh will host players competing for victory in the Homeless World Cup. The 32 international teams taking part include England, Scotland and Spain, as well as countries from further afield such as Ghana, Cameroon and Slovakia. The first Homeless World Cup was held in Austria in 2003 and the event was then repeated in Sweden in 2004 where it featured 26 teams and 204 players, including three women. It is a highly competitive event, which provides a unique opportunity for homeless sportsmen and women and those living in poverty. The benefits of the previous Homeless World Cups cannot be denied. A survey conducted four months after the 2003 competition showed that over a third of participants had found regular employment and almost half had improved their housing situation. Over 90 per cent said they had a new motivation for life after the experiences they shared, and 72 per cent continued to play football afterwards. It is these results that, according to the organiser, Mel Young, make the competition worthwhile. "There are two major changes that take place during the World Cup," he said. "Not only does it give the players an opportunity to move away from homelessness, it also alters the perceptions and stereotypes associated with the homeless community as a whole." This year, the England Big Issue in the North team is made up of players from across the country, who fought off tough competition from 100 hopefuls for a chance to represent their country. The squad is currently being trained by coaches from Manchester United's Football in the Community programme. In the past, players for the England team in the Homeless World Cup have been signed by professional or semi-professional teams to play and earn a regular living, while others have gone on to achieve football-coaching qualifications. Craig Phillips, England Vice-Captain for the 2005 team, said: "I'm proud I've been selected to represent England, but it's still hard to believe. I'm really looking forward to representing my country. This time next year I'd like to be playing football for a team, have a job and a flat of my own." Plans are already under way for the Homeless World Cup 2006, which will be held in Cape Town, giving many more African countries the chance to take part. For more information on applying for trials for the 2006 England team, visit your local Street League, homeless shelter or look out for advertisements and flyers at the start of 2006.