It’s not only the FIFA World Cup in Brazil Chileans have to look forward to this year as the country’s homeless will be exhibiting their own soccer skills in a bid to win the Homeless World Cup for a second time.
Chile is set to host the 2014 event in Santiago, which will see 64 nations and over 500 players battle it out over eight days for the men’s and women’s trophies.
More than 100,000 spectators are expected to turn out from October 19 – 26 in the capital’s Plaza de Armas, to witness the 12th edition of the event. The Homeless World Cup, a social organization, strives to end homelessness through the support of soccer — helping people from all over the world to change their lives.
Founded by Scotsman Mel Young and Austrian Harald Schied in 2001 to raise awareness and to combat global homelessness, the first event took place two years later in Graz, Austria. Since then the tournament has grown from strength to strength and is now considered a major event on the world’s sporting calendar.
Chile’s Fútbol Calle program works in tandem with the country’s homeless and struggling, running two soccer training sessions a week in cities across the country. The organization has sent a team to every Homeless World Cup since forming in 2006 and continues to aid those in need through sport.
Fútbol Calle works alongside “Accion Total” and the Family Foundation, which is led by Chile’s first gentleman, Sebastián Dávalos Bachelet. Today the program has more than 2,500 participants and looks set to continue to develop as Chile prepares to host this year’s event.
Chile’s men’s team are no strangers to winning the competition, having triumphed as recently as 2012 in a thrilling final against host nation Mexico. The victory was all the more sweet given Mexico were the favorites, but the Chileans produced a formidable display, denying Mexico an unprecedented double following their women’s team’s win earlier in the day.
The team currently sits fifth in the world rankings, behind Ukraine, Scotland, Mexico and reigning champions Brazil. The other nations playing in this year’s tournament include Russia, Ireland, Portugal, Poland and Kenya.
In order to be eligible to play, players must meet certain criteria. For example, both men and women must be at least 16 years of age, have not taken part in previous Homeless World Cup tournaments, have been homeless at some point after the previous year’s tournament and make their primary income as a street paper vendor.
Going into the 2013 tournament as defending champions, Chile’s men’s team were unable to top their previous achievement, finishing a respectable fourth. However, the ever impressive women’s team finished runners up in Poznań.
Previous host cities have included Copenhagen, Cape Town, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Mexico City, Edinburgh, Gotenburg, and Poznań. Supported by a network of more than 70 national partners, the Homeless World Cup organization hosts year round events, programs and social enterprise development while supporting grass-roots soccer.
When This is Chile asked Juan Erazo, executive director of Fútbol Calle,how he thought the upcoming tournament would rank against its predecessors he was unequivocal – “It will be the best world cup in history.”