Cardiff 2019: Football's Homeless World Cup 'can create change'

A football match in the Homeless World Cup
Image caption Tom Brady, 24, scores for Wales in the opening match of the 2019 Homeless World Cup

The main focus of the Homeless World Cup is to inspire homeless people to change their lives through the power of football, its organisers say.

But this year's week-long tournament, being held in Cardiff from Saturday, is about more than the football.

It also aims to raise awareness around homelessness to the 80,000 people predicted to attend the free event at Bute Park over the course of the week.

That includes a series of talks around the issue and a music festival.

"I think it's incredibly important to break through the stereotypes and the cliches and the myths around homelessness and to see it's not this solid group of people over there who are the homeless," said Hollywood actor Michael Sheen, who was behind Cardiff's bid to host the 17th year of the tournament.

"It's about us as a community.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption All of the teams from 48 countries took part in a parade before being at the opening ceremony

"The more stories that you hear about people, the more you engage with people's experiences the easier it is to understand and empathise with what's going on and that it's something can happen to anyone.

"It doesn't matter what your circumstances are, things can turn and you need support and help. Only then can you really appreciate the people who have been putting the work into that for years.

"It shouldn't be just when you need it, we should as a community take responsibility and make sure everyone gets the help they need."

"In a way, once the football finishes, we've got to role our sleeves up and start doing the real work."

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Media captionStreet Football Wales is behind hosting this year's tournament

What makes Cardiff 2019 different from previous tournaments is that everything is being held on one site and the debates will focus more on real life stories rather than academia or research.

There will also be photography and art representing people experiencing homelessness, stand-up comedy and podcasts.

Welsh bands and artists will also perform most nights with Manic Street Preachers' front man James Dean Bradfield and Charlotte Church's Late Night Pop Dungeon on the list.

The line up will include an interview with host of the BBC Wales' podcast Shreds and two of the men wrongly convicted of Lynette White's murder, who suffered one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history.

Circus skills workshops, bicycle powered bubble machines, duck races and sporting activities will also be available to visitors.

Creating a legacy is what helped Cardiff win the bid to host this year's Homeless World Cup.

Image caption Wales women's team got off to a winning start against Northern Ireland

"I wanted to make sure this happened because I've seen how it changes peoples lives," Mr Sheen added.


Homeless World Cup Foundation co-founder Mel Young said it was "very, very important" to hear homeless people's stories.

"One of the things that makes Wales slightly different is the determination that there's a lasting legacy. This discussion about how we end homelessness all together.

"We know the Welsh are very keen on this legacy and it's one of the reasons we wanted to come to Wales."

As with every Homeless World Cup, which has taken place in cities including Rio, Melbourne, Cape Town, Milan, Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Mexico City, a parade will kick off proceedings.

Teams, coaches and staff walked from the Principality Stadium to Bute Park ahead of the opening ceremony taking place.

Image caption South Korea are one of the 48 countries taking part

There were mixed fortunes for Wales in the opening games. The men's team came from 6-3 down to draw against Denmark but eventually lost to a sudden-death penalty.

The women's team enjoyed an easier ride coming out 7-1 winners against Northern Ireland in their first match.

All teams will compete every day until finals day which takes place on Saturday, 3 August.

Mr Young hopes the event will attract those who do not like football to make the most of the music, debates and entertainment on offer.

"We want Cardiff to make it Welsh," he said. "Having the music there and these talks [on one site] are the new elements.

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Media captionAre hosts Wales ready for the tournament?

"Talks are about how we can create change - and creating a lasting legacy is really positive.

"If it works for us it's something we might take with us."

However, Mr Young said the main winners from the event would be the footballers.

Street Football Wales (SFW) is hosting the event in Cardiff.

"It should be a really big opportunity for them to go back into their lives after and make the changes they need to make," said SFW founder Keri Harris.

"We've seen the proof every single year we've been doing this over the last 16 years.

"There's so many people who have been to the tournament, played in the world cup and come back and changed their lives and are just an inspiration."

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