There’s no bigger World Cup than the Homeless World Cup. With more than 450 players from 42 countries worldwide, the 2018 tournament concluded in Mexico City on Sunday with the host country claiming the win on the women’s side.
However, all of the players who took to the pitch deserve trophies in their own right. That’s because they are either currently homeless or they have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, yet they stay committed to their sport and to one another.
The whole point of this unique tournament, organized by The Homeless World Cup Foundation and its 73 local grassroots projects, is to empower those who often feel marginalized and socially isolated.
Mexico are once again the Homeless World Cup women’s champions!! 👏🏼🇲🇽
— Homeless World Cup (@homelesswrldcup) November 18, 2018
“When a person who is homeless gets involved in football, they build relationships; they become teammates who learn to trust and share,” according to HomelessWorldCup.org. “They have a responsibility to attend training sessions and games, to be on time, and to be prepared to participate. They feel that they are part of something larger than themselves.
“The sense of empowerment that comes from participating in street football helps people who are homeless see that they can change their lives.”
The 16th edition of the Homeless World Cup, which featured more than 360 fast paced games of street football, reeled in over 200,000 spectators and millions more who watched online.
“The real heroes are the players themselves who have used football to transform their lives,” said Mel Young, President of the Homeless World Cup, during the opening ceremony.
“The journey you have been on has been difficult and sometimes impossible, but you have proved everyone wrong and now here you are representing your country,” he said to the players. “You are all heroes and I salute you all.”
One of those heroes is 22-year-old Linnea Blomberg, who plays for Norway.
“I started using drugs when I was 12–13 … It started with weed and then went to pills to needles,” she explained to HomelessWorldCup.org. “I was living in a bag for a while, sleeping round at friends’. I don’t have a lot of family, which means that when I get friends, I get really attached to them because I need a family. That is why this football team means so incredibly much to me.”
Based in Scotland, the Homeless World Cup Foundation estimates that roughly 100 million people worldwide are homeless, and about one billion people lack adequate housing.
Not only does the organization use football to inspire change among people who are homeless, but it’s trying to change perceptions and attitudes toward those who are experiencing the unfortunate situation.
If you’d like to donate to the cause, you can do so at HomelessWorldCup.org.