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Mexico wins... but all triumph in Homeless World Cup

July 19th 2016

© Lisa Boyd for the Pavement

Welsh footballers are playing keepie-uppies with members of the public whilst a group of fans – wrapped in Swedish flags – cheer on both Ukraine and Austria with an infamous “Icelandic Clap”. This international melting pot isn’t Euro 2016: it’s the Homeless World Cup.

And though it was Mexico – whose men’s and women’s teams were crowned double winners for the second year in a row – who lifted the trophy, it felt like all the players taking part in this unique event had something to celebrate.

This year’s tournament took place in Glasgow in a transformed George Square, which featured 3,500 pitch-side seats for spectators, and 64 women’s and men’s teams from 52 countries around the world. It is the 14th year the tournament has run having visited Scotland once before in 2005 when the competition was hosted in Edinburgh.

The opening ceremony saw over 5,000 people flock to the Scottish city’s main square. And by the time the final took place on Saturday, 16 July the event had clocked up almost 100,000 spectators through the gates – the stands were often full. Online viewing numbers reached an impressive two million around the world.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has praised the competition, saying it “will energise and engage people who, for whatever reason, have become socially excluded.” And it was visited by politicians and dignitaries across all seven days, who all came to show support.

The Homeless World Cup was co-founded by Mel Young - the founder of the Big Issue in Scotland the International Network of Street Papers – and his Austrian colleague Harald Schmied, who wanted to utilise the universal language of football to change lives.

It aims to provide opportunities for homeless people to get involved, giving some the chance to embark on careers as professional athletes. It also offers a platform to raise awareness of homelessness to the wider public through providing free but high quality entertainment.

Mexico and Chile were the stars of the tournament, with both looking particularly strong in the women’s competition – Mexico’s win was no great surprise to regular spectators.

Scotland, as host nation, put in an impressive performance, with the women’s team winning all but one of their first round games. Portugal, Grenada, Germany, Zimbabwe and Finland won all five of their games during the second round of the men’s competition.

The atmosphere of the day, however, didn’t really depend on who was winning or losing. At the end of every game the teams showed solidarity as the players from both sides lined up, arm in arm, and toasted the fans.

The friendly vibes did not detract from the passion driving the players. Skills on show included an incredible overhead kick goal by Mexican number 5 Luis Fernando, and cat-like reactions and acrobatic saves from Indonesian goalie Eman Sulaeman despite him being born with no feet.

Mel Young said: “This tournament helps us redefine homelessness, and make people think differently. We have to challenge the world to tackle the issues and the serious inequality which exists across the planet. We believe everyone can play a part in making a genuine difference.”

Street Soccer games run throughout the year. Street Soccer also runs trials for the Homeless World Cup. Would you like to get involved? Find out about drop-in sessions – for men and women – near you.


London: or

Across the UK:


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