Bringing the tournament to Wales

Hollywood actor and activist Michael Sheen is bringing the Homeless World Cup to Wales to create a lasting legacy.

The Cardiff 2019 Homeless World Cup bid was led by Welsh actor and activist Michael Sheen, who is taking a hands-on role in the organisation of the event. With homelessness at its worst point in decades in the city, across Wales and the UK, the tournament is working to create a legacy which has a real impact on people’s lives long after the final whistle is blown.

Michael Sheen said: “To help bring the Homeless World Cup to Wales this summer is a real dream come true for me. All round the world I’ve seen how football can play a massive part in helping people transform their lives, bring some joy and hope when things seem at their worst or just help to get you through a day. This summer Cardiff will host a celebration of what can bring us all together. We’ll welcome over 500 players from more than 50 countries and show them the sort of warmth and community spirit that the Welsh people are famous for. Not only will there be a feast of football, our Bevan tent will provide the perfect setting for the passionate debate and creative sparks that we’re known for. Most of all, Cardiff 2019 gives us a huge opportunity. A unique platform to engage people in the issues surrounding homelessness, issues that affect us all – housing, health, particularly mental health, criminal justice and inequality, just to name a few – and to launch initiatives and projects from that platform that can make an actual difference in the lives of those who need it most.

“I want the Cardiff 2019 Homeless World Cup to be about creating a legacy of change informed by those on the frontlines of these issues and delivered by an entire nation together in a spirit of compassion and co-operation, qualities that we have long held dear and that have proudly defined us as a people.

Everybody is welcome at Wales’s Homeless World Cup. So, come and join us in Cardiff this summer and let’s make a difference – together.”

The Welsh teams are selected through Street Football Wales, who have been behind programmes to aid social inclusion through sport since the inaugural tournament back in 2003. Keri Harris has managed the team throughout that time, running four leagues with 40+ teams around Wales for people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion.

Keri Harris, Director & Founder of Street Football Wales, and Squad Manager for both Welsh teams at the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff, said: “I’ve been privileged enough to spend the past 16 years since the very first Homeless World Cup in Graz, Austria working with players from Street Football Wales in making a positive impact on homelessness through the use of football. I remember going into that first tournament thinking we would come back to Wales as champions and then being amazed at the skill and talent on show even back then with just 18 teams. It’s never been an easy ride working within Street Football Wales and it’s been a significant challenge to convince people that sport can have a hugely positive impact on people’s lives and destiny but I don’t believe that anyone who attends Cardiff 2019 will ever question that again. They will be blown away and amazed, just as I was at that first tournament – it’s one of those things that needs to be seen to be believed!

“I never dreamed I would be able to see our Welsh teams play in front of a home crowd and didn’t allow myself to imagine it happening but it is happening and although it will be a huge challenge for the players and the teams I’m certain that the home crowd will get behind these truly incredible Welsh players and, win or lose will be cheering us on until the very end.

“Street Football Wales has had a huge impact on our players over the past 16 years and we estimate to have worked with over 8000 players in that time with our biggest impacts being on physical and mental health, confidence and self-esteem, a reduction in substance misuse and people feeling less isolated. Perhaps the most important thing that Street Football Wales provides is the opportunity to be involved in something where they will not be judged or stigmatised, creating self-belief and a feeling of belonging – a community.”

Working with Cymorth Cymru, the umbrella body for Wales’ homelessness sector, organisers are developing a series of sector-led appeals to government, business and the public to make positive changes to policy, funding, participation and perception. Employment and volunteering opportunities for people experiencing homelessness or social exclusion will also exist.

Cymorth Cymru Director Katie Dalton said: “Everyone should have a right to a home, but the constant pressure of high housing costs and poverty means that far too many people are pushed into homelessness. We’re really pleased to be working with Michael to ensure that the Homeless World Cup has a lasting impact on people’s lives. This tournament creates incredible opportunities for the players, but it also provides a platform for government, businesses and communities to really step up and play their part in ending homelessness.”

Alongside the football,  a debate tent hosted in collaboration with the independent think tank The Bevan Foundation, will provide a space for high profile speakers and the public to engage and educate on issues around inequality and injustice and work towards innovative solutions. Street food from vendors will add a further Welsh flavour.

Mel Young, co-founder of the Homeless World Cup Foundation said: “We are truly excited to bring the Homeless World Cup to Cardiff. We were very impressed by the bid and their commitment to delivering a long-lasting legacy across Wales. Every year we travel to a different nation to deliver this wonderful event, and we are sure that Cardiff 2019 will be inspiring and life-changing for the players and the public attending.”

The event will be delivered by the Homeless World Cup Foundation in coordination with Cardiff City Council, Cardiff University, Cardiff City FC Foundation, FA Wales, FAW Trust, Sport Wales, Pobl Group, Office of Michael Sheen, Working Word, PYST, Bevan Foundation, Community Foundation in Wales and Street Football Wales.