The Homeless World Cup Foundation is a unique, pioneering charity which uses football to inspire people who are homeless to change their own lives through the power of football, and to change public perceptions of homelessness and the issues around it.
We operate through a network of more than 70 National Partners to support football programmes. We provide a focus for—and celebration of—their year-round activity by organising and delivering an annual, world-class, international football tournament for national teams of men and women who are homeless.
The Homeless World Cup is an annual, world-class, international football tournament organised and delivered by the Homeless World Cup Foundation. Every year, more than 50 teams of men and women who are homeless get the chance to represent their country during the week-long competition.
The Homeless World Cup was co-founded by Mel Young and Harald Schmied, who came up with the idea following a conference about homelessness in 2001. They wanted to change the lives of homeless people all over the world, and they believed football could help them do it. The first Homeless World Cup tournament took place in Graz in 2003, and the event and network has been growing steadily ever since, occupying a pioneering role in the field of Sport and Development.
More information about the history of the Homeless World Cup, visit the Tournament page.
Homelessness forces people into isolation, which affects their ability to share, communicate, and work with others. When a person who is homeless gets involved in football, they build relationships and become teammates who learn to trust and share. They have a responsibility to attend training sessions and games, to be on time, and to be prepared to participate. They feel that they are part of something larger than themselves. The sense of empowerment that comes from participating in street football helps people who are homeless see that they can change their lives.
Football also improves other aspects of a person’s life, such as physical health and self-esteem, and experience has shown that it is an effective way of engaging people who are homeless who have not responded to other methods of intervention.
The Homeless World Cup is the highlight of the year for our National Partners and provides an aspirational goal for players. The experience is transformational for both participants and members of the audience and challenges attitudes towards homelessness. Players represent their country in front of a supportive audience when previously they were alienated from mainstream society. They are given the opportunity to travel as well as meet people who have faced similar challenges. The tournament is designed to be competitive, but its special structure and emphasis on fair play mean that everyone plays until the last day. There are several levels of competition and trophies to win, providing a sense of achievement for teams of all skill levels.
The Homeless World Cup also challenges societal attitudes towards homeless people. Research by La Trobe University has shown that it significantly impacts attitudes towards homeless people for the better among members of the audience.
National Partners integrate football with other approaches locally. When players return, a huge percentage of them improve their lives through education, employment in social enterprises and other businesses, substance abuse rehabilitation, and supported housing. An amazing 94% of players consistently say that the Homeless World Cup has had a positive impact on their lives. The feeling of belonging, challenge of working in a team, regaining a health-oriented attitude towards life, self-esteem, experience of representing their country, and last but not least the experience of fun is a powerful combination to change a person’s life.
There are many different ways to help depending on who you are and how much you would like to contribute:
– Become a volunteer – volunteer applications are currently closed
Please visit the Press Centre, where you can fill in the press contact form.
There are two overall categories, men’s/mixed and women’s. The Homeless World Cup tournament structure is based on Rugby Sevens, with three stages of competition and several different trophies to win on finals day.
After the draw, each team plays all of the other teams in their group once. Their relative position in the preliminary group determines the group they will play in during the Second Stage.
Each team plays each other team in its Group once in a round robin format. Once all the Group games have been completed, the teams’ final position determines the last Stage of the competition. Teams than finish first or second within their group advance to play for the Homeless World Cup (men’s/mixed) or Women’s Homeless World Cup (women’s). Those who finish in third and fourth place in their group compete for the next highest trophy, and so on.
Eight teams compete for each trophy, with each competition now following the standard form of quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. This includes placing games for all teams. All teams play three games in the Trophy Stage.
The structure of the tournament ensures that each team plays matches until the final day of competition. The standard of football varies considerably across teams, and as the tournament progresses, teams become more evenly matched in terms of skill which provides a rewarding experience for players and audience alike.