All you need to know about the Homeless World Cup

By Toby Prince

Homeless World CupWhat started with the destitute trying to use football as a tool towards getting off the street, the Homeless World Cup has now metamorphosed into a global sporting event with over 70 countries participating.

Initiated in 2003, the World Cup is an annual football event that advocates the end of homelessness through the round leather game.

Homeless people across the world are given a sense of belonging, an opportunity to interact with like minds from diverse backgrounds using football as the unifying mechanism.

Over 1 million players in 74 nations have used the game to build self-esteem, improve their physical and mental well being, and ultimately change their lives.

The 13th edition of the competition kicked off on Saturday, September 12 in Amsterdam, Netherlands and will run through the 19th of same month.

Chile, the defending champions, alongside Scotland, Brazil and Italy, with two titles apiece are the tournament’s most successful teams.

The competition is only open to society rejects, the homeless, addicts and asylum seekers with an age limit of 16.

A maximum of four players – three outfield players and a goalkeeper – are allowed per team on the court, with four others on the bench.

Egypt, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe are representing Africa in the ongoing competition.

Nigeria was denied the opportunity of participating in her second Homeless World Cup – the last appearance was in 2009 – after the Netherland embassy denied the team visa.

Search and Groom; a nongovernmental organisation in Nigeria, which partners the Homeless World Cup to prepare vulnerable Nigerians for the global event, had applied to the Dutch government for visas to allow the Nigerian contingent take part at the event, only to be rebuffed by the European country.

“The decision is incomprehensible and simply the wrong thing to do. We are shocked and angered by this action by the Dutch government officials, who are robbing homeless people of the opportunity to play for their country,” Young Mel, president of the Homeless World Cup said.