To mark World Homeless Day, UEFA advocates the power of football to overcome divisions and discrimination.
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As part of UEFA's Solidarity and Human Rights policy, one of 11 focus areas in our Football Sustainability Strategy 2030, we want to support vulnerable groups at risk of exclusion from society.
Our mission is to make European football a community that welcomes everyone, with equal access, in a safe and secure environment. Our sport is an enabler towards healthy lifestyles, both physically and mentally, and each individual must be empowered to participate in the game and society as their authentic self.
Today, on World Homeless Day, we shine a light on our long-standing partnership with the Homeless World Cup Foundation, an organisation that has been helping people experiencing homelessness change their own lives since 2003.
Objectives of UEFA’s work with The Homeless World Cup Foundation and its Members in 30 European countries
Moving forward and in alignment with our Football Sustainability Strategy 2030, we want to help more people experiencing homelessness redefine their lives through football. We will:
1. Encourage UEFA’s national associations to support their national homeless football teams, in cooperation with the Homeless World Cup’s street football Members
2. Help promote participation opportunities for people excluded from society
3. Raise awareness of homelessness, to change attitudes towards people experiencing it and shape public perceptions
What is homelessness?
By 2030, UN-Habitat estimates that three billion people, about 40 per cent of the world’s population, will lack access to adequate housing. To create more inclusive societies, it is key to change perceptions around homelessness.
People may be homeless if they lack an affordable place to live, translating into ‘rough sleeping’ or, homelessness that is hidden from the public and local authorities, ‘sofa surfing’ - staying with friends or family members with no expectation of permanent tenancy.
Other definitions of homelessness include being in housing, but at risk of violence or abuse, and living in overcrowded quarters, facing physical, psychological or emotional danger.
Public thinking about homelessness is often trapped by individualism. The idea that a person’s circumstances are shaped by their willpower, character and choices, and the belief that the only solution to homelessness is direct remedial services such as clean beds and hot meals.
But there is a vital difference between houselessness and homelessness. Exploring how football can provide people with a sense of home, UEFA and the Homeless World Cup Foundation ask:
What does home mean to you?
Ex-England goalkeeper David James, who is now a UEFA ambassador and Homeless World Cup Foundation supporter:
"Home is not strictly a material place that I live. Home is where I feel I belong, where I am myself and where I feel safe."
🇦🇹 Austria: Philipp Albrecht, project coordinator at the Austrian Street Football Organisation Caritas Graz:
"Our 'Home' is the football field. There is so much potential in football, which inspires millions of people worldwide, and together with the Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB), we want to use it to fill people with enthusiasm and create a positive atmosphere in which you can feel at home. Trained coaches, adapted trainings, tournaments and other activities support our players on their way to a more positive and fulfilling life."
🇧🇪 Belgium: Aurélie, Homeless World Cup player from the Belgian street football organisation Younited:
"Home is where I can be myself and where I'm surrounded by friends. My team is my home."
🇧🇬 Bulgaria: Viktor Kirkov, Chair of street football organisation Social Management Bulgaria
"I created the 'Team of Hope' in 2011 with 27 players in Sofia. Two of them were homeless girls, accommodated in institutions. They did not have good football skills and the boys they played with often shouted at them. One day I asked Desi, one of the girls, what motivated her to come to training despite the dissatisfaction expressed from her teammates. She answered: 'The 90 minutes we practice are the only time I don't think about my problems. I feel calm and safe. Here I meet people who care about me.' She had made the soccer field her own home, and football was the tool that built it. Today, Desi leads a normal life and lovingly raises her young son in her real brick home. Our partnership with the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) and the funding provided by UEFA enables dozens of disadvantaged young people to get a second chance and change their lives for better."
🇫🇮 Finland: Ari "Huli" Huldén, founder of the Homeless Academy, the Finnish Football Association’s (SPL) street football partner
"Home is much more than an apartment or a house. Home means safety, love, care, and community. And of course, football.”
🇵🇹 Portugal: Gonçalo Santos, head coordinator of Futebol de Rua, CAIS's street football programme
"At CAIS we believe that home should mean 'safe place'. We all know, however, that often, it isn’t. For almost 20 years we have been able to provide our street football programme beneficiaries with a new safe place they can call home, the street football pitch. There, our beneficiaries, move into their progression pathways (on and off the pitch) and become role models for their peers and their communities. Currently 50%+ of our head regional coaches and 100% of our referees are former programme beneficiaries that found their home within our programme and now give back providing the very same safe place to younger generations. All that couldn’t be done without the incredible support of our different stakeholders including the Homeless World Cup Foundation, the UEFA Foundation and our longstanding supporter, the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF), that supports us with their HQ facilities for the HWC training camp, football kits and gear for our national teams and their Ambassadors, including our permanent ambassador, João Pinto."
🇮🇪 Access to football: how the Homeless World Cup Foundation helps its participants in Republic of Ireland
"I feel it gives the players the opportunity to become part of a team environment, builds their confidence and improves their fitness," says Thomas Morgan, Football Association of Ireland (FAI) development officer, and head coach of the Street Leagues teams.
"The leagues also give the players structure knowing they have football weekly, and also the opportunity to represent their Country where they receive an International Cap. They see this as a goal to aim for, which is brilliant.
"Being part of the team also makes the players very proud and gives them the belief to feel important and respected among their families and friends.
“The FAI is extremely proud of the relationship that has developed with the Irish Homeless Street Leagues over the past 15 years. The Street Leagues programme currently support 11 Leagues for over 350 players who may not otherwise have access to football."