Friday, August 19, 2011

Homeless World Cup: Scotland Get Ready

Here's 16 names for you:

James Horsburgh
William McLean
William Lawrence
Barry Gannon
Robert Hare
Sean Lawrence
William Hamilton
Matthew Ramsay

Caroline Dunlop
Kerry Glencross
Katy Richmond
Catherine McAllister
Faye Logan
Melissa Noble
Rachel Mclean
Jade Morrison

You probably don't recognise them, most likely you've never heard of them. Random names in an anonymous world.

But they're about to represent Scotland at a World Cup. A football World Cup.

The stuff of dreams.

Yet each of the 16 will have gone through their own nightmares to reach this stage.

On Sunday they'll be pulling on the dark blue when the Homeless World Cup kicks off in Paris. It will be life changing and football will be the catalyst.

But this isn't a championship where good performances garner million pound contracts with top sides or crazily renumerated endorsement deals.

A roof over your head, a steady job, the confidence to kick an addiction. The sort of life changing events - events that might seem mundane to us - that maybe didn't seem possible a year ago or a few months ago when players were living on the street, fighting their demons, condemned to poverty, isolated from society.

And football, which so infuriates and bamboozles us, gives these players that opportunity. 70 percent of participants change their life for the better. Over 50,000 players, all of them victims of some form of social exclusion, are involved in Homeless World Cup projects across the world.

Scotland's team manager, David Duke, knows the impact the Homeless World Cup can have. He played for Scotland in Sweden back in 2004 after finding himself homeless and struggling with alcohol issues:

"The Homeless World Cup was the rope that allowed me to pull myself out of a very dark hole. It helped me and now I can help others. When homeless people say to me I can’t change, I say yes you can. I did. So can you."

A tournament where taking part is the real victory? Friends will be made, fun will be had, Paris will provide the backdrop for a global community of all shapes, sizes, colours, religions and abilities. But don't doubt the competitiveness of these players or the quality on show.

Scotland's men go into the event ranked 9th and, as one of the most consistent sides in the nine years of the event, will hope to improve on their 14th place finish in Rio last year.

The women's team make their debut in an expanding tournament that will feature 16 teams this year. Just like Ally's Army in 1978, Scotland's women are the only representatives of the home nations. I'm sure that won't be an omen.

Our footballing stars are too often easy disdain these days. Our teams too often let us down. The national team too often underwhelms.

That makes us weary of football. We forget the power it has to unite and transform.

The Homeless World Cup is a timely reminder of what the beautiful game can do.

It would be even better if Scotland's two teams give us something to remember on their French travels.

> The Homeless World Cup draw is made on Saturday, the games begin on Sunday. Follow the action here