Smiling Faces and Brilliant Saves

DAY 5: Monday 29th July 2019

This is my fifth daily blog about the Homeless World Cup which is taking place in Bute Park in the centre of Cardiff until August 3. It is a personal reflection or diary piece rather than a chronicle of events.

What about the football today? There were some superb matches. I watched an absorbing match between Bulgaria and Brazil which ended up 6 -6. It was pulsating and either team could have won the game in regulation time. The Brazilians are multi winners of the Homeless World Cup and they have the potential to overrun teams particularly in the early rounds. Bulgaria weren’t having any of it. They have improved since they started coming to the Homeless World Cup and at times today they looked like they would beat the impressive Brazilians.

But it wasn’t to be as game ebbed and flowed and then ended in a draw. And so to the sudden death penalty shoot-out and it was Brazil who held their nerve to win the game.

Some of the saves throughout the game were excellent and both goalkeepers kept each team in the tie. Indeed the goalkeeping throughout the competition has been superb with some of the saves simply out of this world. It is a tight pitch with fast-flowing football. Shots come in from all angles at high speed and the goalkeepers often make instinctive reaction saves.

If the Brazil v Bulgaria game was exciting then the game between Russia and Poland which followed soon afterwards was even more exciting and both the goalkeepers were outstanding. Poland went into a 3-goal lead but Russia kept fighting back. There were extraordinary saves by both goalkeepers. And then in the final seconds with the scores level, Poland shot and as the ball was in mid-air heading towards the goal the referee blew for full time. This time the Russian goalkeeper was beaten and the ball ended up in the back of the net, but of course it didn’t count. If the shot had gone in only two seconds earlier then Poland would have won the game.

And so to another sudden-death penalty shoot-out. And Russia win a thrilling shoot-out. It was simply sport at its very best. Both teams progress to the next stage of the competition and both seemed destined to finish in high positions by the end of the week.

The football has been thrilling throughout the day and it is always a privilege to meet the people who manage and support each of the teams through out the year. Pakistan is attending the Homeless World Cup for the first time. Ahmed Nawaz and Nasima Shah from our street soccer partner, PDP Foundation, have been working tirelessly for over three years to get the team to our annual event and this year they managed it. It is fantastic to meet them and hear about how they work on a day-to-day basis and their dreams for the future. They present us all with hand-made scarfs from their region which we will all treasure. Everyone is so kind and there is a giving atmosphere throughout the tournament which adds to the sporting sense of fair play.

Back to the games and the Indonesian goalkeeper makes another splendid save. The play today from all teams has been mouth-watering with the goalkeepers catching the eye but it is the culture of global friendship – epitomised by the Pakistan partner – which makes the Homeless World Cup so special.

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