Former Homeless Players Are Truly Inspiring

DAY 4: Sunday 28th July 2019

This is my fourth 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.

More great games today. More lives changed. Another fabulous atmosphere in Bute Park as the Homeless World Cup qualifying stage rolls on. There was some fabulous football today and some great goals. But it is the standard of goalkeeping which catches the eye – some of the saves were outstanding.

I am often cocooned in meetings during the annual event but although I did have a number of very productive discussions today, I was able to see my fair share of entertaining football.

This year our Welsh hosts have come up with a novel idea to include debates, discussions and talks alongside the football games. The Bevan Tent is situated just by the main pitch and a variety of speakers will discuss the challenges of today’s world and in particular how to tackle homelessness, not only in Wales but throughout the world.

Today I was speaking at one of the sessions about the Homeless World Cup story and its journey from its early conception in Cape Town right through to today in Bute Park in Wales. Our objective has always been about change – how we can change the lives of homeless people through football and how we can change the stereotypical view of homelessness amongst the general public and the media.

The Homeless World Cup has been hugely successful since it started with the lives of thousands of homeless people changed completely. It is vital to hear the voices of those people and I am lucky to be joined on stage by three former players whose lives have been transformed and now they are here in Cardiff giving back: Natalie Handley from Wales, Lisa Wrightsman from USA and Homkant Surandase from India. The players are the real heroes in this movement and the three people on stage are three of those heroes.

The session is ably moderated by Jason Mohammad and Natalie, Lisa and Homkant articulate their stories about how they have used football and their experience of playing at the Homeless World Cup to change their lives completely. Their stories are uplifting and inspiring. Natalie is now a referee, Homkant is a football coach and Lisa a football manger.

They are leaders. They are people whose journey has been difficult but they have come out the other side in a very good place and now have real strength. It is all well and good having conferences about ending homelessness and poverty and carrying out minute research and organising government task forces, but the vital ingredient if you want to create lasting change is, first of all, to hear the voices of those who have suffered homelessness and then support them as leaders and exemplars.

The audience warm to the theme. The atmosphere of international goodwill is so positive in Bute Park, it seems to me that this what a true United Nations should look like. I know for certain that if Lisa, Natalie and Homkant were running the world it would be a much better place!

Thank you so much to them for coming on stage and sharing their stories. It’s very important that we listen. Solutions are in front of our eyes. Be inspired and then act. I believe we can end global homelessness if we want to. We have plenty of evidence through these stories and we must build on them right now if we want to create a better world which is inclusive and fair.

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