UEFA's support has helped in the organisation of a popular football tournament in Austria, which aims to highlight the plight of the homeless and poor across the globe.
The Homeless World Cup is taking place in the Austrian city of Graz, and organisers and backers are delighted with the response to the event, which has the full blessing of European football's governing body. UEFA has donated €15,000 towards the staging of the event.
Eighteen teams from Europe, Brazil, the United States and South Africa are participating in this grassroots event, which is being organised by Caritas/Austria, the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) and the Graz street magazine Megaphon.
Each squad comprises eight players, homeless people and people who make their living from selling street papers, and two staff. Three outfield players and one goalkeeper may be fielded at any time, and mixed teams may be formed.
Matches are taking place in the centre of Graz on two courts between 17.00CET and 22.00CET each evening, and the games are being accompanied by live music from various corners of the world, played by street musicians.
Football has an enormous potential to unite people, create joy and break down barriers, and Graz, as the European Cultural Capital for 2003, is happy to welcome the event, which culminates in the finals tomorrow. "Sport can be used to help offer a new chance to people in crisis," the city’s authorities said. "The World Cup is an international pilot project in which football's positive strength as a sport and image-bearer can be deployed as part of the global fight against homelessness and poverty."
Organisers are confident the event will be a resounding success. They said some of the matches so far have attracted hundreds of people packed around the playing court. The hope is also that the players will enjoy a human and sporting experience that they will never forget. As the competition website reports: "Homelessness may be the common background of the players, but this afternoon and evening they are footballers. In Graz, we see football returning to its natural roots and back to the street: a passionate game with moments of incredible human feeling."
Further information about the 2003 Homeless World Cup can be found at www.streetsoccer.org
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