During the month long Fifa World Cup tournament, I’ve been blogging about how Fifa has affected those who are homeless and in poverty and how football can be a positive force for change.
The massive event has cast a dark shadow over the lives of many Brazilians, who have been displaced from their homes and driven deeper into poverty. Many groups have protested the spending on new stadiums and World Cup facilities when many people in South America cannot afford medicine or housing and are deprived of a basic education and sanitation. It is unclear what will happen to the families whose homes have been destroyed once the World Cup is over and the visitors have left.
However, football has been used by some groups to bring the issue of homelessness to light and to challenge many of the stereotypes that are obstacles to positive change. The Homeless World Cup (HWC) is a network of 70 international organisations that use football programmes to enable people to transform their lives. Homelessness often isolates people, affecting their ability to interact and work with others. It can also prevent people from planning for the future because they become trapped in a day to day struggle for survival. The HWC uses football to give people the opportunity to be part of a community and to learn and improve skills that are transferable to daily life, such as training, managing time and communicating. The annual tournament, which is held all around the world, helps to change negative and misinformed attitudes towards homelessness.
Looking forward to October, Santiago in Chile will be host to the twelfth annual HWC. In the eight day tournament, more than 500 players will represent 64 nations. The tournament will also celebrate the work the various organisations do in providing support and guidance in football and management skills. It gives footballers who are or have been homeless the chance to represent their country and to meet and build relationships with people from other countries. In cities where the tournament is held, people who are homeless report improved relations with the public as the tournament shows many of the negative attitudes surrounding homelessness are unfounded.
You can find ways to support the work of the HWC here. Whether you like football or not, we can all agree that football is as good an opportunity as any to remember homelessness and poverty affects all nations. By bringing the issue of homelessness to the public’s awareness, and challenging prejudice, we can help everyone in this inhumane position to regain control of their lives and transform their lives for the better. No matter what team you support, we can all get behind that.