On Saturday 27th July, the Homeless World Cup comes to Wales for the first time, bringing together more than 500 male and female players from over 50 countries that have been affected by homelessness or social exclusion in the last 12 months.
Now in its 17th year, the annual tournament connects over 70 street football organisations all over the world to celebrate their year-round activity by hosting a world class event that shines a light on one of the most pressing and complex problems for the global community.
The UN estimates that over 100 million people are homeless worldwide, and 1.6 billion lack access to adequate housing. In Wales alone, more than 10,000 households were officially assessed as homeless in 2017/18, and the Homeless World Cup was created to help tackle this international crisis. The cohesive power of football to overcome language and cultural barriers is what has made this such a poignant way to empower those who are suffering as a result of homelessness.
This year’s tournament will be played at Cardiff’s iconic Bute Park from July 27-August 3 and will host men’s, women’s and mixed games. There will be a total of 64 teams competing for eight trophies, with Wales’ winning hosting bid spearheaded by actor Michael Sheen. A patron of Street Football Wales, Michael has secured support from Cardiff City Council, Cardiff University and the Cardiff City FC foundation alongside other sponsorship partners. The mission is to host the most inspiring tournament yet, including a live music stage and debate tent to create an incredible atmosphere for the visiting players, spectators and the homeless community.
Earlier this year, a delegation from the PFA’s community department travelled to South Africa and hosted a selection tournament to prepare for this year’s Homeless World Cup in conjunction with our South African charity partner, OASIS. Football is a way of life in the townships and eighty players from Cape Town and the surrounding areas competed for a chance to represent their country in Cardiff this summer. OASIS run a thriving football programme, nurturing players from young children right through to adult leagues, and they support men and women living on the streets by offering them opportunities to turn their lives around through education, mentoring, accommodation, and counselling.
OASIS FC Head Coach Bogani Mathiso sheds some light on all the work OASIS do for young players stating, “It is important that they feel part of society. We bring in players from different cultural backgrounds, race, religion and beliefs, offering high comprehensive life skills components, empowering them to make informed decisions regarding their lives. We provide them with all the necessary tools to be able to bounce back in life, using football as a catalyst for social transformation”.
And once the tournament is over, OASIS ensure their support doesn’t stop there.
“We keep in touch with players after the actual tournament, to track where they are and what they are doing. Due to our limited resources we are unable to help every player, but for some we can link them to job opportunities with some even joining OASIS as full-time employees. OASIS have undoubtedly made a significant impact in the lives of those we have supported for the past ten years, and we will continue to empower them to want to become better versions of themselves.”
The PFA travel to South Africa annually to support the work OASIS do, and this year on 21st March for Human Rights Day, we were proud to organise a Football match on Robben Island together, to mark 50 years since the Makana Football Association was formed by political prisoners during the brutal Apartheid regime.
The PFA’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility John Hudson says, “The PFA are delighted to support the South African Homeless World Cup team once again this year in Cardiff. We have partnered with OASIS who are based on the outskirts of Cape Town for the past 5 years, organising a selection tournament each year and providing kit and financial assistance for their transformational intervention programmes. By using the power of Football to inspire homeless people to change their lives and by challenging the stigma surrounding the plight of 100 million homeless and socially disadvantaged people globally, we are standing firm by our social responsibilities as a union.”