One team includes stars from clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea who’ve played Champions League football, FA cup finals and big international matches. The other is filled with women who’ve experienced social exclusion in the past 12 months through homelessness, substance misuse, mental health problems or cultural issues.
Both teams will represent Wales over the coming months and this past Tuesday night the Wales Women’s Homeless World Cup team were invited to meet Wales football stars in a special training session.
The squads who will represent the host nation in the Homeless World Cup Cardiff 2019 have been selected and on Tuesday, members of the women’s team, the Welsh Warriors, visited Wales’ training ground to meet several of the players and coaches.
The Homeless World Cup team were given the special opportunity to be spectators at Leckwith Stadium while the Wales women’s team were taking part in a training session ahead of their match against New Zealand.
Following the training session, there was a meet and greet in which members of the Welsh Warriors met footballing stars Loren Dykes, Natasha Harding, Sophie Ingle and Rhiannon Roberts to pick up a few tips on how to prepare for representing your country and be ready for big international matches ahead of the Homeless World Cup tournament which takes place between Saturday 27th July and Saturday August 3rd in Bute Park, Cardiff.
Loren Dykes, Welsh international football player and ambassador for Street Football Wales said: “This is an opportunity for people of any age, gender and ethnicity to come and play sport. Football is for everyone and the Homeless World Cup is an opportunity to get to know men and women who have faced social exclusion and homelessness. This is going to be a celebration of what we can achieve and not only is it exciting for the squads taking part, but a community festival that will hopefully bring everyone together.”
The Homeless World Cup 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, Director & Founder of Street Football Wales, and Squad Manager for both Welsh teams at the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff, said: “Today has been a fantastic opportunity for our Homeless World Cup women’s team to meet the Wales women’s team ahead of their match against New Zealand. The FAW has always been incredibly supportive of what we do at Street Football Wales and the players are always prepared to go out of their way to show support to our team. As ever we are extremely grateful for their backing.”
“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.”
“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.”
Ahead of the tournament, the Wales squads are in the midst of an intensive 10-week training schedule, which includes weekly training sessions, as well as a residential camp to conduct intensive training and other non-football related physical and mental therapy sessions with coaches.
Sharie Messer, Welsh Warriors team member, said: “Being part of this really means the world to me. When going though depression and anxiety, playing football has been one of the best things to keep me fit and not think of the bad stuff that’s happening. I can really look forward to playing for our country and am so thankful to all who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”
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.
For further information, please contact Daniel Tyte (firstname.lastname@example.org), Kara Williams (email@example.com) or Ffion Rees (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Working Word on +44 29 20455 201