Wales squads announced for the Homeless World Cup Cardiff 2019

Welsh players join 500+ players from 51 nations in a festival of football that’s about more than just a game

The men’s and women’s squads chosen to represent host nation Wales in the Homeless World Cup Cardiff 2019 have been announced.

Sixteen players from across Wales were named today by Keri Harris, Director of Street Football Wales, the organisation from which the Welsh teams are selected.

Street Football Wales have been behind programmes to aid social inclusion through football since the inaugural tournament back in 2003.  Keri Harris has managed the teams throughout that time, running three leagues with 40+ teams around Wales for people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion.

Men’s team (the ‘Welsh Dragons’):

  1. Mark Atkinson (GK): Mark,43, is ex-forces and currently lives in a Salvation Army hostel – Tŷ Gobaith – in Cardiff. He has been battling PTSD and is in recovery from addiction. His ambition in life is to remain abstinent from drink and drugs.
  2. Tom Brady: Tom, 24, is from Colwyn Bay. He has experience of homelessness having lived in a hostel and is currently sofa surfing while he waits for permanent stable accommodation. Tom is in recovery from substance abuse and his ambition in life is to be the best dad he can be.
  3. Joshua Morgan: Josh, 20, is from Swansea. His ambition in life is to be the best version of himself that he can be and get a job to support family.
  4. Scott Hurley: Scott, 29, from Cardiff is currently living at the YMCA Hostel in the city. His ambition in life is to gain a good career in engineering and move to Australia.
  5. Paul Francis: Paul, 28, currently lives with his girlfriend, and has previous long term experience of homelessness and temporary housing. He is starting to address his mental health and substance abuse issues, which being selected for the Homeless World Cup will help with. His ambition is to own his own business and raise happy, caring kids.
  6. Mujahed Dalan; Mujahed, 21, is from the Yemen. He is currently in supported housing with United Welsh. His ambition in life is to be a footballer in the Premier League.
  7. Makumbi Abdallah: Makumbi, 26, was born in Uganda. He is currently homeless and receiving support with substance abuse. His ambition in life is to come together with different people and learn how to assimilate with them.
  8. Osian Lloyd: Osian, 19, lives in North Wales. He has experienced homelessness as a teenager and has recently moved out of homelessness accommodation. His ambition in life is to simply be the best person he can be and to believe in his abilities

Women’s team (the ‘Welsh Warriors’):

  1. Jen Gattrell (GK): Jen, 34, lives in Newport. She has experienced a whole host of homelessness over the years, while also managing mental ill health, which she is now doing effectively. Jen has also recently re-engaged in kickboxing and taekwondo. Her ambition in life is to be able to carry on how she’s now living, but making herself a better person.
  2. Reanna Walker: Reanna, 18, lives in Oswestry. She is waiting to be housed with her boyfriend and 6 month old baby who are all currently living in one room. Reanna was selected to play in Mexico last year but had to drop out the night before the tournament as she was not well. It turned out she was in fact full-term pregnant and while the team were in Mexico she gave birth to her surprise baby, Spencer! Reanna’s ambition in life is to get a house and a job.
  3. Bonny Jewell: Bonny, 27, is currently living in temporary supported accommodation and faces a whole host of mental and physical health problems. Her ambition is to play for Wales in the Homeless World Cup, carry out voluntary work and help guide homeless people back into employment.
  4. Helen Thomas: Helen, 27, is originally from Worcester, and now lives at the YMCA hostel in Cardiff. Football has helped her meet girls in a similar situation who all know what she’s going through. Her ambition in life is to be good at football.
  5. Sharie Messer: Sharie, 24, is supported by the Swansea Young Single Homeless Project. She experiences mental health problems which she’s managing well and her ambition is to be a support worker and give something back that she didn’t have.
  6. Lauren Blud: Lauren, 23, lives in supported housing through Llamau in Newport. She recently moved from a 24 hour supported hostel to semi-independent living. Lauren faces challenges with her mental health and her ambition in life is to complete a coaching award.
  7. Chloe Byrne: Chloe, 17, is being supported by Gorwel at temporary supported housing for young people in North Wales. Her ambition in life is to get a good job.
  8. Jade Winder: Jade, 25, has experience of living in refuge accommodation. She is currently homeless and being supported by Gorwel in North Wales. Her ambition is to get a job.

Ahead of the tournament (Saturday July 27th – Saturday August 3rd) the Wales squads will undertake an intensive 10 week training schedule, which will include 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.

In addition, the players will spend time with Street Football Wales patron, actor and activist Michael Sheen, who led the bid to bring the Homeless World Cup to Wales and is taking a hands-on role in the organisation of the event.

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.

Speaking about the squad selection, Director of Street Football Wales Keri Harris, said: “This is my seventeenth year with the Homeless World Cup, since the very first one in Graz, Austria in 2003. But to host it in Wales is something very special indeed.

“When we heard the news that the Homeless World Cup 2019 was to be hosted in Wales the entire Street Football Wales community blew up with excitement and as a result competition to be a part of this year’s squads was more fierce than ever before.

“Wednesday’s squad selection day in Newport gave me and my training staff a lot to think about but we’re confident that our sixteen selected squad members will do not only Street Football Wales and Wales, but more importantly themselves, proud.

“Over the past 16 years Street Football Wales has had a huge impact on our players and we estimate that we have worked with over 8000 individuals 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.

“We really are a community here. We do not judge or stigmatise. We provide those who are experiencing homelessness and social exclusion with a support system and a sense of belonging that many do not, and may never have had.

“To see our teams play in front of a home crowd will be mind-blowing and I really hope that the brilliant Welsh public will come and watch and support these special individuals who are enduring great hardships, but nevertheless have found a home on the football pitch and will be pulling on their Welsh jerseys with immense pride ready to play for their country.”

Selected player Scott Hurley said: “This means the world to me and to be able to put on that shirt in Wales in front of a home crowd is amazing, I’m so excited and proud, words can’t describe how I feel.”

Sharie Messer – “Really can’t believe I have had this opportunity to get selected to play for the Welsh Warriors at the Homeless World Cup. The support of friends and family and also my support workers I have had over the past couple of mouths has been great. 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. Thank you all to all who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”

Tom Brady: “I’m absolutely buzzing and feel so proud of myself.”

Mark Atkinson: “This opportunity has made me an even more proud Welshman than I’ve ever felt, amazing.”

The Homeless World Cup has separate competitions for men’s/mixed teams and women’s teams, with matches consisting of two seven minutes halves played on one of three 22m x 16m specially constructed pitches. Defending champions of both the Men’s/mixed and Women’s titles are Mexico.  A full list of competing nations is available here: https://homelessworldcup.org/cardiff-2019-competing-teams/

Each nation brings a full squad of eight players, but only a maximum of four players per team are on-field at one time. The national teams for each country are selected by the local national partners who support football-based programmes and social enterprise development around the world.

Players must be at least sixteen years old and have been homeless within the previous year, make their living as a street paper vendor, be an asylum seeker, a previous asylum seeker who recently obtained residency or be in drug/alcohol rehabilitation and been homeless within the previous two years.  Players can only represent their country at a tournament once as the event’s aim is for the experience to transform a player’s situation.

In addition to the selection of the official men’s and women’s teams, Street Football Wales have also selected reserve teams who won’t play as an official team but will be available individually to be loaned to any teams in the tournament who need an extra player due to injury.

Note: The men’s and women’s squads are subject to change ahead of the tournament.

Background to the Homeless World Cup Cardiff 2019:

The 17th edition of the Homeless World Cup will take place in Cardiff’s iconic Bute Park, right at the heart of the Welsh capital, from Saturday July 27th to Saturday August 3rd 2019.

More than 500 players representing over 50 countries will travel to Cardiff to play in the week-long festival of football. Created to harness the power of sport in transforming the lives of people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion, over one million people worldwide have had their lives positively impacted by the tournament and its programmes since the first tournament in Graz, Austria in 2003. Recent hosts of the annual tournament include Mexico City (Mexico), Oslo (Norway), Glasgow (Scotland) and Santiago (Chile). 

The Cardiff 2019 Homeless World Cup bid was led by Welsh actor and activist Michael Sheen, who is taking a hands-on role in the organisation of the event. 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.   

Alongside the football,  a debate tent hosted in collaboration with the independent think tank The Bevan Foundation, will provide a space for high profile speakers and the public to engage and educate on issues around inequality and injustice and work towards innovative solutions.  Street food from vendors  will add a further Welsh flavour.  

The event- which is completely privately funded and uses no public funding – will be delivered by the Homeless World Cup Foundation in coordination with Cardiff City Council, Cardiff University, Cardiff City FC Foundation, FA Wales, FAW Trust, Pobl Group, Office of Michael Sheen, Working Word, PYST, Bevan Foundation, Community Foundation in Wales and Street Football Wales.

Entry to the Homeless World Cup is free and open to all.  Games will be broadcast live on YouTube via the official Homeless World Cup channel  For further information, visit https://homelessworldcup.org/ and follow @HomelessWrldCup on Twitter and @HomelessWorldCup on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube