In celebration of World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day, we explore the positive impact of football on mental health through UEFA's partnership with the Homeless World Cup.
Article top media content
At UEFA, our mission is to make European football a community that welcomes everyone in a safe and secure environment. Our sport is an enabler towards healthy lifestyles, both physically and mentally, and everyone should be able to participate in the game and society as their authentic self.
As part of UEFA's Solidarity & Human Rights and Health & Well-Being policies, two of 11 focus areas in our Football Sustainability Strategy 2030, we encourage the European football community to contribute to solutions that boost participants' mental health. Together with our members and selected partners, such as The Homeless World Cup Foundation, we also want to support vulnerable groups at risk of exclusion from society, including those experiencing homelessness, and help them redefine their lives through football.
UEFA and the scientific evidence behind the power of football
There are many examples of how the power of football creates a sense of safety and belonging, which are integral elements of mental well-being. But what is the scientific evidence behind this concept?
To explore this question, we hosted a special online conversation that demonstrates the game's positive impact. When Sarah Frohwein fell on hard times and experienced mental health problems, she was able to use her love of the game to overcome her struggles, first as a goalkeeper for Team Wales and now as a referee with the Homeless World Cup.
Sarah shared her story in an online conversation with Dr Yetsa A. Tuakli-Wosornu, former athlete, Associate Professor at the Yale School of Public Health and Director of the Sports Equity Lab. Together, Dr. Tuakli-Wosornu and Sarah Frohwein illustrated that the power of football lies in the neurobiology of safety, which can provide a buffer against some of life’s troubles.
Michele Uva, UEFA social & environmental sustainability director
"Building positive relationships makes people feel safe and accepted, which has a strong impact on well-being and the degree of happiness in civil society. Football can play a major role here, which is why we continuously mobilise the football community to welcome everyone to our sport and to promote physical and mental health. Examples like Sarah’s are why UEFA has been supporting the Homeless World Cup since 2003. The annual tournament is an event like no other, with a unique purpose. People encountering hardship in life come together to play our game, to be a part of our big community. We congratulate the Homeless World Cup on the outstanding work they have been doing for the last 20 years."
Mel Young, Homeless World Cup founder and president
"Since the very first tournament in Austria in 2003 to our last tournament in Sacramento in July this year, UEFA has been ever-present across all forms of our outreach. Working with UEFA to mark World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day is one manifestation of our long-standing partnership. It focuses attention on, and is a celebration of, the work that’s going on all year round to support those individuals who need it the most. It shows how together we can create a better society by using the power of football to create change. We look forward to growing our partnership with UEFA and increasing our relationships between our 31 European member countries and their national associations."
More about the Homeless World Cup
Founded in 2003, the Homeless World Cup Foundation is now active in 31 European countries, empowering an estimated 100,000 people through its work, which extends to another 29 nations around the world. Its year-round work culminates in the annual Homeless World Cup tournament, an event which also helps shape attitudes towards people facing homelessness and can change the lives of its participants.