You’ve Probably Never Even Heard Of The Homeless World Cup — Here’s Why You Should

From October 6 – 14, Mexico City hosted the Homeless World Cup, an annual soccer tournament designed to raise awareness of poverty issues, which is played by teams made up of homeless and socially-disadvantaged people from around the world. 2012 was the event’s 10-year anniversary, with teams from 54 nations participating. The opening weekend attracted over 50,000 spectators.

Homeless World Cup in Mexico

The Homeless World Cup Foundation works with a network of 73 national partners to support football (or “soccer,” to Americans) programs and social enterprise development. Based on the idea that soccer is an effective tool to combat poverty and homelessness, these national partners reach out to homeless and socially disadvantaged people in their communities and provide skills development, support, and training. Though selection criteria vary country-to-country, some players from within these programs are offered the opportunity to travel to the Homeless World Cup.

An LGBT identity can increase a person’s risk of living in poverty or being homeless, especially for youth. Consider these data from the U.S., Canada, and Britain.

According to an American report released in July 2012 by the Williams Institute in collaboration with the True Colors Fund and the Palette Fund, nearly all (94%) of homeless youth providers report serving LGBTQ youth. The report, which was based on 381 respondents representing 354 agencies across the United States, concluded that LGBTQ youth made up approximately 40% of the clientele served by these agencies. In Canada, an estimated 25-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ (source: The Homeless Hub), and the U.K.’s Homeless Link‘s 2011 Survey of Needs and Provision identified 7% of clients in an average project as LGBTQ.

READ: New Study Confirms 4 In 10 Homeless Youth Are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender

Despite these numbers, there was no visible LGBTQ programming or information at the Homeless World Cup, so on October 11 — National Coming Out Day in the U.S. — I put on my Football v Homophobia T-shirt and went to the Zocalo where the matches were taking place.  Football v Homophobia is an initiative of the UK-based organization The Justin Campaign – named after the world’s first male out pro footballer, Justin Fashanu – which is designed to raise awareness and combat homophobia and transphobia in football.

The Homeless World Cup Foundation has very specific goals for the coming years: They want to involve one million players across 100 nations by 2014. The Foundation knows that football (soccer) is effective because “[w]hen a homeless person gets involved in football they communicate and build relationships with others; they become teammates, learning to trust and share; they have a responsibility to attend training sessions and games, to be on time and prepared to participate. They feel part of something.”

LGBTQ people should be a visible part of this something, too.

Allies and advocates can help by supporting the activities of the Homeless World Cup, and by asking for the implementation of LGBTQ-specific information, resources, and programming (like a Pride House, for example).
It’s like the shirt says: Football for everyone.

The 2013 Homeless World Cup will take place in Poznan, Poland. For more on the Homeless World Cup, read the FAQ section of their web site, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

by KEPH SENETT on OCTOBER 21, 2012

Article originally published on The New Civil Rights Movement on October 21. 2012. Reprinted with permission.