DAY 3: Saturday 27th July 2019
This is my third daily blog about the Homeless World Cup which is taking place in Bute Park in the centre of Cardiff from today until August 3. It is a personal reflection or diary piece rather than a chronicle of events.
Well, the Homeless World Cup has kicked off successfully. After months of preparation, the street soccer competition started at 12.30 today.
I gave one of the opening speeches along with the host Michael Sheen who welcomed everyone to Cardiff. For my part, I wanted to thank Michael and all of his team plus the huge number of volunteers, sponsors and supporters in Wales who had worked so hard and with such commitment to make this event work brilliantly in Cardiff. They have done a superb job and even organised the sun to shine!
I also wanted to say a few words of recognition to our street soccer partner in Wales, Keri Harris, who set up and runs Street Football Wales, for his hard work over the years – he’s been with us through thick and thin since we started this journey in 2003.
Of course, there are hundreds of people to thank across the world. We have one partner in 74 countries and our street soccer partners work tirelessly throughout the year, using football as a way of supporting people away from marginalisation and exclusion. And then they put a team together to come to the annual Homeless World Cup. They are superstars. Michael Sheen talked about the Welsh folklore of warriors and dragons and how that spirit was embodied in our movement and now it has come to Wales.
I ended my speech by saying the real heroes are the players themselves. They have sometimes come from incredibly difficult backgrounds and situations but thanks to their huge efforts here they are proudly representing their country. Even more than that, they are an example of what humanity should really look like.
Then the games start. Fast-paced action played in a spirit of good sportsmanship describes what people are watching in front of their eyes. The Welsh men’s team come from behind to draw 6 -6 with Denmark but eventually lose the penalty shoot-out. Then the Welsh women have a comfortable win over Northern Ireland before Mexico beat Chile 3-2 after being 2-1 down in a high-quality, thrilling match. What a start to the eight-day event.
But every year, the moment that leaves everyone with a lump in their throat is when the teams sing their national anthems. Perhaps, some of the players have good reason to be angry at their country but it doesn’t affect anyone here. They all belt out their national anthems with pride. It is very moving and it’s a moment when you feel everyone in the crowd is willing these players to succeed, not just in the game but in the rest of their life.
It is at this moment, with everyone together, that you feel confident that we can change the world and end homelessness and poverty in the world. It is an emotional moment which no-one will forget.
The players are bursting with pride and it is an honour to be with them in Cardiff this week.