12 August 2012
Swedish football legend Henrik Larsson has become an ambassador for Gatans Lag, the partner of the Homeless World Cup in Sweden.
"It doesn't cost anything, and if I can contribute to ONE person changing his or her life, then it will be worth it," says the former Helsingborg, Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United striker.
"With his experience of football and life he is a great ambassador for us," says Keijo Orava, former player and now Gatans Lag coach. “Henrik has spoken about the difficulties of having a family member who lives with drug addiction. This helps me to understand how my family had problems with my drugtaking, never knowing if I was alive or dead.”
Henrik, now manager of Landskrona BolS, knows the pride of putting on a Swedish shirt and he also knows how it feels to be afraid of failure. Many of the Gatans Lag players know what it's like to be in and out of rehab centres, prisons, etc., and they also know what it's like to try and finish with drugs and rejoin society, get accommodation and find their identity again.
As Henrik says: "Football can join people together from all social backgrounds, cultures and ages. Who knows where I would have been without football?”
To play for Gatans Lag is completely voluntary and all training sessions are drug-free and alcohol-free, but if players have a setback, they are welcome to return. The main idea is to motivate and strengthen the players, to help them change their lives.
Togetherness and teamwork are key factors in the success of the Homeless World Cup and Gatans Lag is an excellent example of the positive power of sport.
Gatans Lag is a football-based organisation for players who are or have been homeless, had drug problems or a criminal background. This year's Sweden team for the Homeless World Cup in Mexico City will be picked from the players who show the most enthusiasm for training and will benefit most from the experience of playing in the tournament.
Henrik's former team-mate Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United is also an ambassador for the Homeless World Cup.