Hary Milas, a long-term volunteer and keen supporter of the Homeless World Cup has sadly passed away.

Credit: Anita Milas

“This is such devastating news,” said Mel Young, President and Founder of the Homeless World Cup.

Hary was a very special part of the Homeless World Cup family. His contribution has been immense. So positive, friendly, empathetic and kind. And he was a great referee. In many ways, he encapsulated what the essence of the Homeless World Cup is all about. As a referee, he brought his much-needed professional skills to the event which was so important but he also brought a loving personality which won so much admiration from everyone involved, particularly the players.”

“We are convinced that if everyone does something positive, however small that might be, then we can change the world and end homelessness. How can a referee change the world, people ask? The answer may not be immediately apparent but that’s exactly what Hary did. His commitment and interventions changed people’s lives.”

Credit: Anita Milas

“The Homeless World Cup has a large international volunteer base. People from all over the world take time off work to come and volunteer at our annual event. Hary first volunteered as a referee when the event was held in Melbourne in 2008 and he was hooked and took the long flight to every annual event since then. He officiated at 12 consecutive events and his contribution was immense.” 

“He was always smiling and positive. He was passionate about the Homeless World Cup and would do anything for us if we asked him. He was a fabulous ambassador and gave a lot. He was humble and often said how honoured he was to be involved and talked about how much he had learned during his involvement with the Homeless World Cup. He changed people’s lives, but he also said that his life had changed.” 

Credit: Anita Milas

“At his first Melbourne tournament in 2008, he was refereeing a match between Russia and Croatia. He was faced with having to send off a Russian player for a challenge worthy of a red card, Hary chose to show it respectably and quietly to a player who had no doubt been through so much in his life. After the match, the player who was dismissed thanked Hary for treating him with dignity. Hary offered him his whistle as a memento of their encounter together and the ‘Whistle of Hope’ was born, an award which has been given to a selected player who has shown respect to the referee, teammates and opponents, after each of the 11 Homeless World Cups since.”

Credit: Anita Milas

He handed out the ‘Whistle of Hope’ in every event and gave it to players who went the extra mile – a type of unofficial fair play award for an act of good sportsmanship. The players were always thrilled to receive the award and were often moved to tears. It helped contribute to the fair play DNA which runs throughout the annual event. 

“He was part of a great group of international volunteer referees who support the Homeless World Cup. They are a special group who support one another – they are like a family within a family and have huge respect. Hary was a central part of that group.”

Hary also convinced his wife, Anita, to join him as a volunteer and as a professional photographer, she is responsible for many of the great photographs which are used by the Homeless World Cup regularly and capture the positive atmosphere on the faces of the players as lives are changed for realAll of the images accompanying this tribute were taken by his talented wife.

Our thoughts are with Anita and her family on this very sad day. 

Hary may have passed on but he will always be a key part of the Homeless World Cup story and his Whistle of Hope will remain with us forever.

Back in Black – Behind the scenes with referee Hary Milas