The Homeless World Cup:Its more than just a game

The Homeless World Cup is a sporting event like no other. A lot of people believe that football is just a game and do not really understand why they have so much emotion when either watching the game or actually playing it. For some, football is almost like a stress reliever and helps forget about any troubles you have for awhile. Football is also the only thing some people can look forward to, kids like Bradley Lowry who have been diagnosed with cancer in their lives only have few things to look forward to as they sit in their bed all day, everyday. When Sunderland player and England International, Jermain Defoe visited Bradley, it brought nothing but joy to the young boy especially when he was told that he would be a mascot for one of Sunderland’s and also one of England’s games and get to walk onto the pitch with his favourite player, Defoe. Bradley’s parents described that the two occasions made Bradley forget about his illness and made him overjoyed. This is just a key example of how the game today is not really just a game especially when overwhelming news like this regarding football is heard. Sport does change lives.

Defoe and young Lowry

Homelessness and extreme poverty should not exist in this modern age and yet homelessness manifests itself in every country in the world. There is more than one hundred million people homeless worldwide. When we hear figures like this, it really is hard to believe the outragous growth of the scale.

Numbers like these are exactly what helped made the President of the Homeless World Cup, Mel Young create the tournament in 2003. Before Mel created the HWC, he was a journalist and Co-founded ‘The Big Issue’ in Scotland in 1993. The idea of the HWC came when him and his partner and also co-founder, Harold Schmied were at a conference on homelessness in Cape Town, South Africa, 2001. Mel Young and Harald Schmied believed that it was possible to change the lives of homeless people through football, and two years later, the first tournament was held in Graz in Austria.

The main aim Mel and Harold were trying to reach out to people was that sport has immense power to give people a purpose to improve both their physical and mental health and to boost people’s self esteem. The two founders wanted to raise the money they would earn from crowds, sponsors and ambassadors for the Homeless. People who followed the tournament could donate by texting in to the HWC.

The Homeless World Cup set up, in Scotland

The HWC was also an opportunity for the players that were playing to develop resilience, to achieve personal goals and to help prevent repeat homelessness. All the players who participated in the HWC have their own backgrounds. Some who had to escape war-zones in their countries,

some forced to marriage, life of crime and accident in their lives that affected them forever. Last years tournament seen a player with one leg participate !

Each team is playing for their own organisation, the winner of the tournament wins the funds for their organisation. Out of the forty plus teams in the HWC, Ireland is ranked number one, not bad for a country of four to five million people. Ireland’s partners are the ‘Irish Homeless Street Leagues’. The IHSL use sport to transform the lives of individuals from underprivileged, poorly educated, socially excluded and conflicted communities. Participants are offered life-skills training and are referred to education and employment services if needed, as well as being given the opportunity to join coaching and refereeing courses by the FAI.

In the fourteenth edition of the HWC(last summer’s HWC, 2016) Ireland finished the HWC as the Plate winners and brought home silverware. Ireland faced a very talented side of Egypt.

Both teams played quite nervous with Ireland finding it difficult to get into the rhythm and found themselves trailing at halftime at a score of 2–1. The second half began with Ireland pushing forward with more discipline as McDonagh scored in the first few seconds of the second half. Minutes later seen Egypt capitalise with another goal, seeing the score 3–2 to Egypt. Two defensive errors in a matter of five minutes from Egypt helped ireland take full advantage of these errors by scoring twice in the two mistakes. The score was 4–3 to Ireland ! As the clock was in Ireland’s favour and time was running out for Egypt it seemed Ireland was going to win with a dramatic comeback but in the last fifteen seconds of the match seen Egypt score a late equaliser making the score 4–4 ! The match was seen going into penalties.

Ireland seemed to be a downcast for penalty shootouts as they had previously lost two shootouts from two different tournaments. It seemed as if Egypt were aware of this as they sniggered and whispered in each-other’s ears.

It was 4–4 in the penalty shootout. Ireland were up next, they needed to score and Egypt to miss if they were to win the cup, visa versa for Egypt, they needed the exact same out of Ireland. Aiden Power for Ireland slotted his chance from the penalty spot for Ireland. Egypt needed to score. Egypt stepped up and took their penalty, sadly for them they strook the post and goalkeeper of Ireland John Farrell celebrated like a mad man on the pitch !

The scenes were incredible as many Irish supporters travelled all the way to Scotland. The cheers were fantastic as Captain Jason Martyn ran over to the fans with the cup and celebrated. Absolute scenes these were as Ireland were not even given a chance and looked down upon by many teams.

The Ireland team celebrating their cup win

I got the chance to speak with Captain Jason Martyn and get his thoughts on the entire tournament.

Interview with Jason Martyn, Republic of Ireland

Captain Jay Martyn for the Repeublic of Ireland

1)What is your opinion/thoughts on the Homeless World Cup, do you think it is a great cause ?

Yeah, I think it is a brilliant cause, it brings many nations together from different parts of the world to play together where we can learn from one another. It was a really positive cause to be apart of.

2)How did it feel to represent your country in the HWC and to captain your country to the group final ?

It was just an amazing feeling to actually go out and represent Ireland and to captain the country into the final was a dream of mine since I was a young boy, to represent Ireland at forty years age was a great achievement for myself and my family.

Going into the final as captain, I was very nervous listening to the national anthem. There was a lot of emotions flowing inside of me but I tried keeping myself calm but it was a great feeling to be on the pitch and standing proud, representing Ireland.

3)Tell me about those two fantastic goals you scored against Street Soccer United, two back-heel finishes in the space of a minute !

I was very proud of it. The ball came to me so I just thought I would try it, I was checking for the keeper and managed to pull off the backheel.

Cheeky back-heel number one

The second one, as you said was just a minute later so i just said why not try it again, bit of luck I got two of them in that space of time but if you don’t try these things you’ll never know, it was just a bit of skill and luck.

Back-heel number two

3)Describe your emotions when winning the final ?

AMAZING, an amazing feeling to win the cup with a great bunch of lads who had your back during the tournament. It was great we got something out of it from the hard work that was put into it, even before going to Scotland, the training put in for the managers and coaches and everyone involved, even the people who supported the HWC and gave in donations and the people back home watching it. It was a phenomenal feeling, I never won the lottery but I say it is that kind of feeling.

4)Is this one of your greatest accolades, by not only winning the final but actually say you participated in the Homeless World Cup ?

It was a great sporting achievement in my life if not THE greatest sporting achievement in my life to go out and represent my country and for me to get the opportunity to play in it and win it. Meeting new people also was huge, people from different cultures, it was more than a game of football it was all about friendship also, people from homelessness, people from all sort of backgrounds but it was about a group of people coming together for a great cause. It was amazing to be apart of that.

5)Would you play in the HWC again if approached ?

Yes, I would definitely play in it again, its an opportunity to take without a doubt. Theres many people coming from different backgrounds like addiction and homelessness and when you go away for one of these tournaments and play in a foreign country, the confidence, pride and self belief you get is amazing.

I have also represented Ireland on two other occasions in Belfast and Manchester in European competitions but neither of them can relate to the feelings, emotions and pride you get when playing the Homeless World Cup.

Well done lads !
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