The Glory of the Beautiful Game

DAY 9: Friday 2nd August 2019

This is my ninth 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.

It’s quarter final and semi final day. This second-last day of the annual event is always intense and exciting and today it certainly lives up to its billing. I am able to watch some thrilling games.

In the men’s semi-final, Chile and Russia play out a nail-biting game which ends 5-5 with Chile winning the sudden-death penalty shoot-out. If that took your breath away, the second semi-final was even more thrilling with Portugal and Mexico fighting out a 5 -5 draw after Portugal were three goals ahead. Mexico then won the sudden-death penalty shoot out 1-0. The final will be between Chile and Mexico.

Earlier the women had also produced some superb and exciting football. Peru edged out Romania 5-4 while Mexico got the better of Chile 4-2 in a very closely contested match with some top-quality football on display. The women’s final will be between Mexico and Peru.

It has been a busy day with many meetings and discussions. The day started with a meeting for people from different countries who were potentially interested in hosting the Homeless World Cup in the future. Our plan is to move away from announcing which city will host the event 12 months in advance. In 2020 we hope to announce where the event will be held in 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Cities are being invited to bid and the meeting was to let interested people know what the process will be and to know what we expect each host city to provide. There was a huge amount of interest.

I speak with managers and coaches throughout the day. All of them are very happy but nothing is ever perfect. The Danish goalkeeper is still in hospital after damaging his hip and it looks like he may need an operation. The manager of the Ivory Coast became ill and he is also in hospital recovering. Other players have bumps and bruises but there are also many smiles.

There is a huge army of volunteers who form a crucial part of the event and I am able to pass a couple of minutes with some of them and thank them for their invaluable contribution.

Special guests are starting to arrive and I say hello and shake their hands. Some are lawyers who have helped on the legal side throughout the year on a pro-bono basis. Pat Cassidy arrives and meets the Croatia team that he helped get to Cardiff. Without his generosity the Croatia team wouldn’t be here in Cardiff. Then there is Phil Jennings, the recently retired General Secretary of UniGlobal, a proud Welshman who is attending his first event despite supporting the Homeless World Cup for over a decade. Board members also start arriving – people who give their time to make sure that the governance and direction of the organisation stays on track. Raymond, who is representing FIFPRO, one of the sponsors, is also here.

There are many others. What I see are individual parts of a significant movement. Each person plays an important part. There are hundreds of contributions from players, volunteers, referees, board members, sponsors, staff members, sponsors, medical people, writers, photographers, commentators, broadcasters, lawyers, accountants, and more and more who have all given something out of their lives to make this event happen.

What they give might be tiny or it might be huge. It doesn’t matter because each is as important as the other. We fit all these parts together like a massive tapestry or jigsaw and together the Homeless World Cup is changing the lives of people and changing the stereotypical view of homelessness throughout the world.

Please be inspired. Take simple tiny steps and act together with others and that’s how we can create lasting change. There shouldn’t be any homelessness in the world. Together we can end it. Join in.

Thud. The ball hits the back of the net. Cheers ring out across Cardiff. More lives changed. It has been a great day.

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