Homeless World Cup

Homeless World Cup via Flickr

Robin Basselin and Ryan Geertsma look at different kind of World Cup – a football World Cup for homeless people. It brings together homeless people around the world for new opportunities.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Robin Basselin.

Voice 2 

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3 

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to encourage our spirits. Sport can create hope, where once there was only great sadness."

Voice 1 

These are the words of the great South African President Nelson Mandela. He spoke them during a speech in the year 2000. His speech honored the famous football star Pelé. Pelé led Brazil to win three FIFA World Cup football competitions. In fact, Brazil has won more World Cup competitions than any other country. But in 2013, Brazil won a different kind of World Cup - the Homeless World Cup. This international competition provides the kind of hope that Mandela spoke about in his speech. Today's Spotlight is on the Homeless World Cup.

Voice 2 

Around the world, 100 million people do not have homes. Most of these individuals live on the streets. And without shelter, they often live in dangerous situations. Homelessness is large and complex problem. But people and organizations around the world are working to solve it. Mel Young and Harald Schmied are two such people. Young is from the country of Scotland and Schmied is from Austria. In 2001, the two men attended an international conference about the problem of homelessness. At the conference, Young and Schmied began to wonder if football could help solve the problem of homelessness. They knew that sport could bring hope and encourage important life skills. So, they asked themselves - what would happen if homeless people could train for and compete in their own World Cup?

Voice 1

 In 2003, Young and Schmied decided to start the Homeless World Cup organization. Homeless World Cup works with more than 70 other not-for-profit organizations. Each organization helps choose and train local homeless people for the yearly football competition. Today, 500 people from almost 50 countries play in the Homeless World Cup. And the program is changing lives.

Voice 2 

Twenty-three year old Damien is a past Homeless World Cup player. He is from the city of Dublin, Ireland. For many years, Damien struggled with drug addiction. He had developed a harmful need for the illegal drug heroin. But in 2006, Damien hoped to play for Ireland’s Homeless World Cup team. He spoke about his desire in the film "Kicking It."

Voice 4 

"I was a great football player, years ago, when I was young. But I stopped playing and got lost in the world. But I loved it. I always loved it. I have a goal - to play for the team. But I have another goal for when I get back. It is to stop using drugs."

Voice 1

 Today, Damien has achieved both goals. In 2006, he played for Ireland’s Homeless World Cup team. And since that time, he has been drug free!

Voice 2 

Many of the Homeless Word Cup players, like Damien, have struggled with drug addiction. However, other players are homeless because of poverty. They have grown up in slums, or places of extreme poverty. Alex Mwambe is from Nairobi, Kenya. In the film "Kicking It," he says,

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"I was born in Mathare, the biggest, baddest slum in Kenya. I grew up in poverty. I could not find anything to eat. Also schooling was a problem. My life just started when I started playing football."

Voice 1

Football gave Alex gave him joy. It taught him to work hard. And it helped him believe that he could achieve something.

Voice 2 

Football can even provide hope for people that have experienced extreme tragedy. Najib is a young man from Afghanistan. He has lived through much war. Many of his family members have died. And fighting destroyed his home. Najib continues to live in a difficult situation. But football has helped him and his friends survive. Najib explained in the film "Kicking It,"

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"It is only during the games that we do not think about our situation. Football makes me happier than anything else. I am not interested in anything other than football. I desire football more than eating."

Voice 1 

Drugs, poverty, war - these are all common causes of homelessness. Playing in a football competition may not directly heal drug addiction, solve poverty or end war. But it can give people emotional strength and help them learn important life skills. Often, homelessness can destroy a person's feeling of self worth. But football can give people confidence. It can help them think more positively about themselves. In 2012, Mark was the head of Scotland's Homeless World Cup team. Like Damien, he struggled with drug addiction. He told the Homeless World Cup website:

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"Confidence is a big thing I think. I could never believe in my self-worth... I just wanted to die... But now I am almost 3 years drug-free. I am in Mexico playing football. For me, that is a dream."

Voice 2 

Football also gives players structure. Often, people who are homeless struggle everyday just to survive. They cannot plan for the future or think about long term goals. But to play football, players need to be responsible. To get to the Homeless World Cup, players must train for hundreds of hours. They must become strong. And they must learn to work together. The Homeless World Cup website states,

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"Homeless people can use these skills in their day to day lives. Therefore, homeless people see that they can change their lives."

Voice 1 

Playing in the Homeless World Cup can also produce many other positive results. Players meet people from all over the world. They can learn about many different cultures. And they can build relationships with other footballers who share their life experiences. At the closing ceremony of the 2013 Homeless World Cup, one of the founders, Mel Young, said,

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"Football has the power to change lives. The best result this week was not on the playing field, but it was how the players took the next step to move forward in their lives. And they will encourage other homeless people to do the same."

Voice 2 

Today, Damien from Ireland is drug free. Alex from Kenya coaches football for young children in the slums. And other Homeless World Cup players have jobs playing professional football. The Homeless World Cup organization claims that 70% of the players improve their lives, and often the lives of people around them. For these players, sport has changed their world. They know the power Nelson Mandela spoke about when he said, “Sport can create hope, where once there was only great sadness!”

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Homeless World Cup."

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!


Do you play a sport? Has playing a sport changed your life in any way?


Avatar Spotlight
said on June 26, 2014

In the life each of us has dreams. We may be rich. We may be poor. We wish a beautiful good world. We go to World Cup competition with desires of peace, friendship and reaching perfection. In the life we try much to reach perfection. Each of us has our precious dignity. We respect everyone. A beautiful good world is a place where everyone lives, is respected and loved. We build for a beautiful good world. We help everyone have basic conditions to live their lives well to be worthy of their precious dignity. We try much to live our lives well to be worthy of our precious dignity.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 12, 2017

Actually I don’t play any kind of sport , but I’m walking at least 10 miles everyday , walking is giving me more power and hope to forget about any kind of depression or desperation in my life . Of course walking as a kind of sport helps me to meet new people , enjoy the beautiful nature , and work hard on my job .
It very wonderful to care about homeless people by sport , although is not enough action for over 100 million homeless people , but its a big spotlight on doing more for them .