Monday, July 23, 2007

Homeless World Cup

The first time I every played soccer (known, of
course, the world over as football) was when
I was about 34, working on the administrative
staff of a small college. For the intramural sports,
the faculty and staff fielded teams to play the students.
and one of the sports was soccer. I had played
American football, softball, basketball, etc., for
years, but never soccer. And I absolutely fell in
love with the game! For me, it was the sport I
had been looking for all my life. And I have
enjoyed playing it, and now watching it, ever
since. In many ways, it changed my life.

And now, because of a little half-page flyer
I found in "Coracle," the magazine/journal of
the Iona Community, I find that people are using
football/soccer to change the lives of those who
often lead the most desperate and hopeless of lives.
Starting this Sunday, July 29, teams from 48 nations
will participate in the 2007 Homeless World Cup
to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark. That's right.
the Homeless World Cup. Team made up of
folks who live on the streets of our world.

The vision of Harald Schmied, editor of the Austrian
street paper, Megaphon, and Mel Young, co-founder
of The Big Issue Scotland, the first Homeless World
Cup in 2003 featured teams from 18 nations. Since
then, each year has seen more players on more teams
from more countries gather to play for the tournament.
Both UEFA and Nike have been sponsors since the
very beginning, and teams like Manchester United and
Real Madrid work with the players representing England
and Spain.

And the players? Those folks who live under our bridges,
eat from garbage cans, sleep in the darkened doorsteps
and alleys of our cities? Those people who, so we are told,
have no motivation, no ambition, no desire to change
their circumstances, their lives? Six months after the
2006 Homeless World Cup, held in Cape Town, South
Africa, 92 percent of the players say they have a new
motivation for life. 73% say their lives have changed
for the better. 39% have chosen to pursue education.

We spend a lot of time, money, and energy with all our
committees, commissions, and task forces trying to 'solve
the problem' of homelessness. Maybe all one needs, to
make a start, is to get a round ball that folks can kick
into a net to get back on their feet.

As Jesus said, "Seek, and you will find . . ."

Vive el football!

(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman