Homeless World Cup: Real Social Change Through Soccer

The 10th annual Homeless World Cup brought homeless men and women together to inspire change through soccer.

Last Sunday, one of the greatest global games commenced, the Homeless World Cup. Bringing together men and women from all over the world who have been homeless at one point in their lives, the games ran from October 6 to October 14. This year, over 500 players from nearly 50 countries came together to inspire change through the universal language of soccer.

The games are the brainchild of Mel Young, a leading social entrepreneur and Harald Schmied, a former editor and journalist. They came up with the idea for the organization and tournament after a 2001 conference on homelessness in Cape Town. Now in it's 10th year, after launching in Austria, this year's competition was held in Mexico City. In the finals, Chile reigned victorious over the host team, in an 8-5 win. But Mexico's women's team defeated Brazil 6-2. Throughout the week the crowds swelled to a total of 200,000 spectators, and viewers also watched a live stream of the matches online.

While the week is a great time to watch competition, the game's ultimate goal is to help change people's lives, like former player Michelle da Silva, who grew up in the favela in Brazil made famous by the movie The City of God. After her participation in the 2007 Homeless World Cup she was chosen to represent Brazil in the women under 20 national team and later to play in the 2010 South American Cup.

This year's Ana Aguirre, 23, profiled in today's New York Times, was selected to represent Mexico out of the 15,000 people that applied. Aguirre has faced hardships in her drug riddled home of Ciudad Juarez, where she started seeing street fights and gang violence as early as 8-years-old. Soccer for her, was always an escape, and at this year's Homeless Cup she had the chance to showcase her talents, especially when her team creamed the U.S. 20-0. Ouch.

But for those moments of jubilation, the realty is the players have to return to their lives right after. That's why the Homeless World Cup works with 73 national partners the rest of the year through grass-roots soccer programs and social enterprise to motivate and inspire solutions throughout the year. We can also help, by volunteering, donating, and mobilizing fundraising efforts.

While we anticipate next year's 11th games, let's help this great organization kick some ass.

Photos courtesy of Homeless World Cup

via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

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