Thursday, April 21, 2011

Homeless World Cup: The Positive Power of Football

A shining light in the fug of our disconsolate national game. A Scottish footballing success story that is helping to change the world.

The Daily Record reported yesterday on the progress of the Homeless World Cup since the idea first germinated - like all the best ideas in a pub - ten years ago.

The project now involves 30,000 people in 75 countries. 97 percent of Homeless World Cup players say the experience has had a positive impact on their lives.

Full disclosure: I worked for the Homeless World Cup back in the day. That makes me a convert, a zealot. But also an eyewitness to the remarkable power of the tournament.

All that and you get some quite stunning games of football as well.

Mel Young, who co-founded the event, said:

"It was like a fairytale and we actually thought it couldn't be right because solving homelessness is not that simple. But, in fact, it works because it is really simple.

"We have one partner in every country and they work with homeless people on the street throughout the year, using football as a way of encouraging them to get off the street.

"From there, they get involved and get a bit of identity, possibly get selected to represent their country and then they come to this one big event, which is really a celebration of all the hard work."

It's a quite incredible story. And the heart of the operation remains in Scotland, based at Easter Road.

There is a caveat though. As Young points out:

"Funnily, people from Scotland don't seem too impressed with what the Homeless World Cup has done but in other places it is massive.

"I think it is just a Scottish thing that we don't get too impressed by things. We don't let people get above themselves, which is a good thing, but sometimes we need to celebrate things more."

Right here, under our noses, Scotland has real, measurable proof of the positive power football can have when the right people have the right vision.

And we choose to ignore it.

Maybe it's time we all took our heads out of the sand.

The Homeless World Cup