Final preparations are being made for a UEFA-backed tournament in Austria, in which football's popularity will be used to highlight the issue of homelessness and poverty throughout the world.
The Homeless World Cup will take place in the Austrian city of Graz from 7-13 July, and will feature 18 teams from Europe, Brazil, the United States and South Africa. The event is being organised by Caritas/Austria, the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) and the Graz street magazine Megaphon.
The 18 teams of eight squad players – homeless people and those who make a living from selling street papers - and two staff will play matches in the centre of Graz, which has been designated as Europe’s Cultural Capital for 2003. The matches will be played on two courts between 5 and 10pm local time. Teams can field three outfield players and one goalkeeper at any time, and mixed men/women teams may be formed.
All matches will be accompanied by live music – samba, flamenco and other types of world music played by street musicians and other enthusiasts. The official opening of the event takes place at the Graz venue's centre court on Sunday 6 July at 7pm.
"Social integration through sport has become a successful strategy in many countries," the INSP said. "The unifying passion for soccer has a unique ability to shift social borders ... sport itself becomes the means to create new chances for persons in crisis situations."
For more information on the Homeless World Cup in Graz, visit www.streetsoccer.org
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