“The Homeless World Cup Foundation is a charity that has been set up to fund and support projects based around the highly successful Homeless World Cup. Through the projects the Foundation coordinates a legacy will be created in the communities that the Homeless World Cup enters. This will not only enable participants to solidify the changes that their experience has inspired, but will also mean that the positive impact of the Homeless World Cup can encompass a far wider range of people and can provide an integrated and stable environment for permanent change.” Extract from the mission statement of Homeless World Cup Foundation
I sat in the bleachers almost at the top. In front of me was a man as captived by the scene as I, though he unquestioningly looked somewhat more out of place in his expensive suit and tie. Next to me were two families on an outing… the kids were scampering around on the bleachers like mountain goats until at last they settled down with ice cream and raised flags. One of them kept asking about the time, and I realized he was excitedly impatient. He wasn't the only one… the buzz of an expectant crowd was unmistakable, even in the mix of loud cheers and chatter. I remember smiling to myself and feeling like I had stumbled on one of those things that will add spice and substance to life for a long time even after this day.
Game after game we sat there and watched, cheering and marvelling at these men and women who had come here to play soccer, travelling across the world with the aid of donations and sponsors to be here. To show themselves, and to represent their country on the pitch. The skill level was impressive, and the tenacity and dedication beyond anything I could have imagined. It was humbling – truly humbling and gave thought to some of the most common misconceptions about these people.
The tournament was into its final stages. Surrounded by Copenhagen City Hall and Tivoli it was set perfectly in the heart of everyday life. It couldn't have seemed more inviting. The huge nets that were strung up, sporting big signs that read “Free Admission”… somehow that made a huge impact on me. How often do we actually have “free admission” into the lives of strangers like that? Prejudice and fear often keep us apart from the very world that we had come to pay tribute to and acknowledge now. The world of the homeless.
When at last I left the make-shift arenas it was with a sensation of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to have been there and been part in it. To see players and spectators alike cheer for other teams, oblivious of politics and culture I was reminded just how much can be achieved when people come together with an open mind and a willing heart.
For more info on the Homeless World Cup, check out their site here
For more pictures, see Homeless World Cup 2007