The Big Issue : Edition 440
22 THe big issue 30 Aug – 12 sep 2013 moments. Both women had played for Norway: one played in Rio in 2010, the other in Paris in 2011. Their lives were so transformed by this involvement that they returned to support the new players and, like many of us, receive their annual hit of HWC inspiration. Other former players also followed and contributed to the event live, thanks to the wonders of social media. A member of Australia’s 2011 Street Socceroos team, Mustafa (‘Musti’), sent Facebook messages of support, crediting the confidence he gained from his HWC experience with helping him develop leadership skills. Cindy, who was the sole female Street Socceroo in Paris in 2011, celebrated her birthday in Australia while this year’s event was on. Two of the Poznan referees handwrote her a sign that read ‘Happy birthday, Cindy. We miss you.’ They captured an image of themselves with the sign as the Australians headed on to the pitch to play Greece, then posted it on Facebook. Cindy was understandably chuffed. The HWC’s slogan, ‘a ball can change the world’, rings true. The event’s football is fast-paced and furious, with players gaining fitness, confidence, ball and teamwork skills. But the real HWC magic happens in the moments when players aren’t necessarily winning, or even on the pitch. The Canadian goalkeeper, for example, was gloved up and unable to re-tie one of his own shoelaces when it came undone mid-match. When the referee ran over to tie it for him, the goalkeeper showed his thanks by giving the referee a spontaneous shoulder massage. The Indonesian team combined serious football skills with un-serious mohawk haircuts dyed vibrant red. Led by their coach – who himself went from 15 years of homelessness to being an outstanding player in 2012, before being selected to steer the 2013 team – the Indonesians’ onfield and off-field joy was infectious. TAke A LOOk at the sport section of any newspaper or website. Australia’s cricket team has been imploding, the AFL has been embroiled in a messy doping controversy... It’s enough to make you stop watching sport altogether. A football (soccer) tournament taking place in the northern hemisphere seems an unlikely antidote to this frustration, but the Homeless World Cup (HWC), which just played out in Poznan, Poland, is precisely that. It is drug- and alcohol-free, has a focus on fair play rather than winning at all costs, and offers many participants who’ve faced severe hardship the chance to shine. The HWC is an event for people who, for reasons such as drug addiction, abuse, poverty or war, have found themselves homeless and marginalised in the previous two years. Requiring no common language, and with just two goals and a round ball needed to play, the HWC tells the story of homelessness without really focusing on homelessness at all. Instead, it provides a stage for people to enjoy football, share their stories and shed the stigma of disadvantage. During the tournament, players can be transformed from invisible and misunderstood to visible and celebrated, with members of the public learning about them and their lives, and actively cheering them on. even the event’s co-founder (also the co-founder of The Big Issue in Scotland), Mel Young, still grapples with how to encapsulate the HWC’s transformative effect in a media-friendly soundbite. What is clear is that the tournament is getting something right. Ten years on from the first HWC in Graz, Austria, we’re now seeing the event’s powerful legacy. Players are returning to the event as coaches, support staff and spectators. Two women stopped me on the stairs one day to ask if I was english (an easy mistake to make, given that my parents’ Irish and Scottish heritage left me with sun-challenged skin). What followed was an impassioned, hour-long conversation during which we swapped stories of marvellous HWC A Sporting ChAnCe At the 10th homeless World Cup, in polAnd, FionA CrAWFord Finds lots oF Winners And A reminder oF WhAt sport is meAnt to be – but seldom is.