If there was ever more reason to believe that soccer was 'The Beautiful Game,' the Homeless World Cup is proof.
The special version of the World Cup kicked off in Amsterdam this week.
And it has celebrity support, too.
Colin Farrell, an ambassador to the organization, said: “I have seen how the Homeless World Cup really does inspire homeless people to change the direction of their lives.”
The tournament was founded by Mel Young and Harald Schmied after they attended a conference about homelessness in 2001. They wanted to change the lives of those less fortunate and struggling in society for the better and found a way to do it with the world’s game.
The first tournament took place in Graz in 2003 and has grown in popularity. The 2008 documentary, Kicking It, which was narrated by Farrell, followed players from around the world come together in South Africa to represent their country and themselves.
They organization says: “Every single one of the players representing their country at the Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam is a hero.
“They have endured many hardships in their lives and they have all worked extremely hard, sometimes against seemingly impossible odds, to complete their journey to play in Amsterdam.”
Players - male and female ages 16 and older - can participate in the games. To qualify, the players must have been homeless at some point in the last two years or be receiving drug or alcohol treatment.
While these players may not have the recognition like the game’s top stars like Ronaldo, Messi, or Pirlo, they are playing for a pride that cannot be matched by that of a superstar.
According to the organization: “When a homeless person gets involved in football, they build relationships and become teammates who learn to trust and share.
“They feel that they are part of something larger than themselves. The sense of empowerment that comes from participating in street football helps homeless people see that they can change their lives.”
The game even helps players improve themselves, win or lose, when they return home. According to the organization, 94% of players say that tournament “has had a positive impact on their lives.”
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