homeless-soccer-tourny.jpgAfghanistan defeated Russia 5-4 in the final of the 2008 Homeless World Cup in Melbourne on Sunday.

The Homeless World Cup is a world-class international football tournament that has triggered grass roots football programs in more than 60 nations engaging 30,000 players who are homeless all year round.

(Photo: Sayed Qasem in action during the 2008 Homeless World Cup final against Russia in Melbourne Australia. 7th December 2008. Photo: Sydney Low / Photoworx)

During their 6th world cup last week, 56 nations united for a tournament that included the first women’s cup, won by Zambia.

The Homeless World Cup has gained great momentum since its inaugural competition in Austria between 18 nations. Founded by social entrepreneur Mel Young, the program is supported by UEFA, Nike, The Vodafone Foundation, Global Ambassador Eric Cantona and international footballers Didier Drogba and Rio Ferdinand.

In a thrilling match witnessed by 50,000 spectators packing a stadium, the Afghan and Russian teams battled it out goal for goal, with Afghanistan holding the lead.

homeless-world-cup.jpgHomeless World Cup founder and president Mel Young presented the trophy to the jubilant Afghanistan team:  “You have shown that working together we can create real, lasting change. Together we can end homelessness. This is everyone’s game — the spirit of fair play.”

“Congratulations Afghanistan. You are the true ambassadors for your country. You can stand proud. You are amazing.”

Research conducted during the Melbourne games shows that two thirds of event spectators surveyed have changed their perspective of homeless people. 82% agreed that the tournament breaks down stereotypes about the Homeless community.

It provides the opportunity for people who are homeless to represent their country and change their own lives.  77% of players involved experience a significant life change; no-longer using drugs and alcohol, moving into homes, jobs, education, training, repairing relationships and becoming coaches or players with semi-pro teams. 94% claim to have a renewed motivation for life.

Milan will host the next Homeless World Cup in 2009.

For full results and match reports, visit www.homelessworldcup.org

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