29 February 2012
The Homeless World Cup is more than an annual tournament. Around the world every day of the week people are changing their lives through becoming involved in playing football.
Our National Partner in Finland is the Homeless Academy Association. It began life late in 2005 as part of the Helsinki Deaconess Institute's soccer project in association with Suojatie ry (Crossing Society) offering training for homeless people and drug addicts.
Supported by the Ministry of Education and the Finnish Football Association, they organize competitions, coaching, educational and recreational activities for the different groups and coordinate activities with other social agencies.
They offer a unique opportunity through soccer. The Academy supports and coordinates the homeless national soccer practices and competition in Finland, culminating in the selection of a team of players to travel to the Homeless World Cup each year to represent Finland at the annual event.
This story follows 4 of the people they have worked with over the years.
Anne, Bengt, Kenneth and Marko have something in common. They are all Finnish; all have experienced homelessness and all have changed their lives after being involved with football activities.
Anne and Bengt were together in rehab and both joined in the training sessions with the Homeless Academy back in 2007. They were both chosen to represent Finland at the Melbourne 2008 Homeless World Cup and Anne received the tournament Fair Play Award.
Today they are both working full time, and have moved to a new apartment as they recently started a family with a baby boy.
Both of them are still involved in soccer, with Anne playing in Division 2 in Helsinki as well as coaching a young girls’ team. Bengt plays Division 3 Futsal.
They also support new groups of players at the Homeless Academy.
Kenneth first came to the Homeless Academy through rehab and with the help of other players he recognized that playing football might be the best way to get back into condition.
He got the support of his team colleagues and felt very comfortable being one of them. Kenneth tried out for the Milan 2009 Homeless World Cup team but wasn’t selected. His perseverance, however, took him to the Rio tournament in 2010 where he was selected to represent his country.
His life has significantly improved and he is now using his personal experiences, working as a role model and counselor, to help young people with troubles. He recognizes himself in them and hopes that what he is doing will help them make the right life choices.
Marko's journey through rehab brought him to the Finnish program in Tampere, which is part of the Homeless Academy. He started playing regular football within the programme and this involvement led to him being picked for Team Finland at the Paris 2011 Homeless World Cup.
After the annual event, he successfully completed a training program to become a painter. He is hoping to start working very soon. Meanwhile, he is taking care of his family.
These are just a selection of the life changing stories that are taking place in Finland and around the world every day as a result of homeless people playing football and starting them on a journey that leads to them significantly improving their lives.