Colin Farrell on the Homeless World Cup: “It’s an extraordinary thing to be around”

Hollywood actor Colin Farrell thrilled Homeless World Cup players and supporters with a surprise visit to the tournament in Amsterdam.

The star of “In Bruges,” “Seven Psychopaths” and HBO TV series “True Detective” was announced as a Homeless World Cup ambassador in June, but has been a long-time supporter of the tournament. In 2008, Farrell narrated the documentary “Kicking It,” which followed seven players’ journey to the Homeless World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa.

On opening day, Farrell met with players and cheered on the team representing his home nation, Ireland, during their match against Ukraine. Afterwards, he joined the players on the practice pitch.

He spoke to Homeless World Cup’s Danielle Batist about his love for the tournament, his respect for its participants and the film he plans to make based on the Homeless World Cup.

What do you think of this year’s tournament?

It’s brilliant, there’s an amazing feeling here. The sense of inclusion and being around so many people who, for whatever amount of time, have fought to better their own existence. To get over whatever challenges life has thrown at them in the past and reintegrate themselves into society in a way that society isn’t always allowing…it can be a very exclusive place and the world can be a very exclusive place.

This is about giving a sense of purpose, inclusion and community through football, and it’s an extraordinary thing to be around. People were thanking me for being here today and, I’m not even joking, I’ve been thanking people for letting me be here because it’s good for my heart just being here.

What did you expect from the tournament?

I heard about the Homeless World Cup for the first time eight years ago, and I was lucky enough to narrate the documentary “Kicking It.” I’ve been aware of it since then and trying to get the film up and running, but this is the first time I’ve been to the tournament.

What can you tell us about the plans for the new film?

Frank Cottrell Boyce is scripting it and it’s in keeping with the spirit of this thing. It’s moving and it’s funny. After a few drafts, Frank just nailed it. It’s very touching. I’m co-producing it and playing one of the Irish players. It’s good to be here today and see the lads doing their thing.

What have you learned from the players?

Very little, as you can see from how I kicked the ball! On the one hand it’s all about inclusion and community and about picking yourself up, but it’s also a serious competition. Everyone wants to win and everyone wants to represent themselves to the best of their ability.

What did you think of the Ireland vs. Ukraine game?

It was tough, yeah. It’s a jagged little pill, but you hope they’ll just move on because it’s a fast game, it only lasts 14 minutes. You put your head down for one minute and the other team are past you. But they have four more games to go.

What do you think in general about seeing all the different teams here?

It’s gorgeous. I’m fortunate to have experienced the Special Olympics a couple of times. They are very different things, but there is a parallel between the two of them. It represents an aspect of our global society that are too easily polarised, too easily excluded from this kind of experience. To see all the players from Grenada, Bosnia, Slovenia, Ireland, South America, Asia…it’s phenomenal to see the galvanising effort and spirit that makes this tournament possible.

And it shows people another side to homelessness…

Homelessness is very out of sight out of mind. There shouldn’t be anyone on this planet who doesn’t have a roof over their head. This is an amazing thing, as are the programs that are attached. It’s not just about the game, there’s an infrastructure in place to help the players. It must be hard to come back from this to your life in your home city, so the programs in place to help them are an amazing thing.