Homeless Soccer World Cup Comes to California, Empowering Players Worldwide
In California this year, the Homeless World Cup, an international soccer tournament, will bring together numerous players from different countries who are currently experiencing homelessness or residing in rehabilitation centers. The event will take place at the University of California in Sacramento from July 8 to 15 and is organized by the Homeless World Cup Foundation. The tournament, consisting of 40 teams, will feature approximately 500 participants, with partner leagues worldwide boasting over 100,000 players.
Mel Young, co-founder of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, highlights the unifying and transformative power of soccer. He believes that the sport has the potential to address significant global issues and eliminate the stigma associated with homelessness. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, nearly 150 million people worldwide are affected by homelessness.
To qualify for the 20th edition of the Homeless World Cup, players must have experienced homelessness or resided in rehabilitation centers within the past two years. The participants come from diverse backgrounds, including refugees, asylum seekers, and individuals forced into shelters or onto the streets due to a lack of affordable housing.
For example, Fahrudin Muminovic, who represented Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 2019 Homeless World Cup, spent a significant part of his life in refugee camps following the tragic Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Sienna Jackson, a player for Team USA, faced family conflict that led her to rely on the support of friends and sleep in parks. Eventually, the Wind Youth Center in Sacramento helped her reconnect with soccer and rebuild her life.
All tournament players are partnered with organizations in their home countries that provide mental and physical health support. These partnerships aim to assist players in finding employment and housing when they are ready to make positive changes in their lives and move forward.
The Homeless World Cup is being held in the United States for the first time, following previous tournaments in South Africa, France, and Denmark. The event includes two categories: the World Cup, featuring men's and co-ed teams, and the Women's World Cup, which consists of women-only matches. The games are played with four players per side on a smaller field, similar in size to a tennis court, resulting in faster-paced and higher-scoring matches. Each game lasts for 15 minutes.
The final match of the Homeless World Cup will take place on July 15, just five days before the start of the 9th annual FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where 32 teams will compete.