Harald Schmied, co-founder of the Homeless World Cup has been awarded the Merit Badge of the Republic of Austria. This is one of the highest awards anyone can receive in the country.
Schmied’s life-long commitment to social change was celebrated when Alois Stöger, the current Minister of Social Affairs in Austria, presented him with the emblem during a ceremony in the Ministry of Social Affairs in Vienna.
Schmied was instrumental to the conception and founding of the Homeless World Cup, and it was in his home country where the first ever Homeless World Cup Tournament took place in 2003.
The great success of the 2003 Homeless World Cup in Graz, helped lay the foundations for the project Homeless World Cup Austria, ran by Caritas Steiermark, which has helped shaped the lives Austria’s marginalised and most vulnerable groups.
Harald Schmied and Mel Young came up with the idea of football as a universal language and the Homeless World Cup during the annual conference of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2011. Schmied was the editor-in-chief of the Austrian street paper Grazer Straßenzeitung Megaphon.
“Harald’s commitment and passion for social justice marks him out as a very special person,” said Mel Young. “I applaud the Austrian Government for giving Harald this award, because we need people like him to be recognised for the positive contributions they make. We have been friends for more than twenty years and I know the personal commitment he makes, so this award is greatly deserved.”