Homeless World Cup brings its message of hope to Sacramento, California

In a remarkable display of unity and talent, this Saturday will wi...
Homeless World Cup brings its message of hope to Sacramento, California

In a remarkable display of unity and talent, this Saturday will witness hundreds of soccer players hailing from all corners of the globe converging on the pitch to participate in the Homeless World Cup. This international tournament, taking place this year in California, is a testament to the resilience and skill of individuals who find themselves without permanent shelter or in rehabilitation centers.

Hosted at California State University, Sacramento, from July 8th to 15th, this 40-team competition is the brainchild of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, an organization that boasts over 100,000 players engaged in partner leagues worldwide. In Sacramento, approximately 500 of these remarkable players will showcase their soccer prowess.

Mel Young, co-founder of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, acknowledges the potent unifying force that soccer represents. He emphasizes the game's potential not only as a sporting spectacle but as a tool to address some of the world's most pressing social issues. For Young and his organization, soccer offers homeless athletes a supportive community and aims to combat the prevailing stigma surrounding homelessness.

The impact of homelessness on a global scale is significant, with nearly 150 million people affected, as reported by the World Economic Forum in 2021. The Homeless World Cup, now in its 20th year, invites players who have experienced homelessness or rehabilitation center residency within the past two years to participate.

The participants in this tournament hail from diverse backgrounds, including refugees, asylum seekers, and those compelled to seek shelter or live on the streets due to a lack of affordable housing.

Fahrudin Muminovic, who represented Bosnia and Herzegovina at the 2019 Homeless World Cup, embodies the resilience of the players. He tragically lost his father and 150 other villagers in the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 and spent much of his life in refugee camps.

Sienna Jackson, who will be competing for Team USA, has a similar tale of resilience. Despite growing up with soccer in her blood, family conflict pushed her into relying on the generosity of friends. She even endured nights sleeping in parks until Sacramento's Wind Youth Center reintroduced her to soccer and helped her rebuild her life.

Each participant in the Homeless World Cup is connected with partner organizations in their home countries, which offer essential mental and physical health support. When players are ready, these organizations assist them in finding employment or securing stable housing.

Mel Young sums up the mission of the tournament, stating that it's all about facilitating positive changes in the lives of these courageous individuals.

This year marks a historic moment as the Homeless World Cup descends upon the United States for the first time. Previous editions of the tournament were held in countries such as South Africa, France, and Denmark.

The competition is divided into two categories: the World Cup, encompassing both men's and co-ed teams, and the Women's World Cup, exclusively featuring women's matches. Games are played with four players per side on a field resembling the size of a tennis court, leading to faster-paced and high-scoring matches, each lasting 15 minutes.