Monday, October 15, 2012

Homeless World Cup: Mexican wave

Scotland couldn't hold on to their 2011 title at the Homeless World Cup in Mexico but they did manage to end the tournament on high.

Saturday's results had conspired to pitch us against England in Sunday's final match.

A play off for 7th place in the Mexico City Trophy might not have been what either side had dreamed of as they trained for the Mexican spotlight.

But a clash with the Auld Enemy always sparks the imagination.

Yesterday Scotland came out on top with a 9-3 victory.


A score with a certain resonance in the history of cross border footballing skirmishes.

Redemption can arrive in strange places. I'm sure Frank Haffey is saluting this Scottish team from afar.

Homeless World Cup football is an intense sport. Four-a-side on a tight, enclosed pitch.

It's fast and it can be furious. That was certainly the case in the final game of this tournament as Chile beat hosts Mexico 8-5 to lift the Homeless World Cup trophy.

In front of a huge crowd - watching on from Scotland the attendances at this Homeless World Cup have never failed to amaze - neither side looked prepared to give an inch.

But Chile, who saw off my favourites Brazil in the semi finals, seem a side keen to spring a surprise.

They clung on as Mexico - buoyed by their win in the Women's Homeless World Cup - got off to a flying start. And they got stronger as the game progressed, edging ahead and holding their lead.

Both sides, I'd guess, will have left the pitch knowing they'd been in a hell of game. The referee might have felt the same way.

So the trophy and the post-match glee belonged to Chile.

But, trite as it sounds, there are few losers over the course of this tournament.

The players are experiencing an event few of them could have imagined before they found a communal purpose through football.

The Homeless World Cup itself finds a week long platform to celebrate the work that goes on around the world for the other 51 weeks of the year.

The work I keep mentioning, the work that uses football to change the lives of the forgotten, the marginalised, the ignored and the stigmatised.

Mel Young, co-founder and president of the Homeless World Cup, said after the final:

"There are one hundred million homeless people in the world today and one homeless person is one too many.

"Football has the power to transforms lives and the best result this week was not on the pitch, but how the players took the next step to move forward in their lives and inspire other homeless people to do the same."

Maybe watching a game online, reading this blog or visiting the tournament website will have led someone to change their opinion of homeless people somewhere in the world.

I hope so.

I do know that almost every player in Mexico will already have changed their lives. Most of them will take more positive steps in the weeks, month and years ahead.

Thousands more like them will be on the same journey. Not all of them can make the trip to the Homeless World Cup. But each of them will feel the benefit of the tournament's global stage.

But there's still more to do.

More lives that can be changed by nothing more complicated than this daft, frustrating, simple, infuriating game.

The work goes on.

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