Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Homeless World Cup?
The Homeless World Cup is a unique, pioneering social movement which uses football to inspire homeless people to change their own lives. We operate through a network of more than 70 National Partners to support football programmes and social enterprise development. We provide a focus for—and celebration of—their year-round activities by organising and delivering an annual, world-class, international football tournament for national teams of homeless men and women that takes place in a different city every year.
More information about the Homeless World Cup is available on the About page.
When is the Homeless World Cup?
The tournament is an annual event. In 2015, the Homeless World Cup took place in Amsterdam from 12th-19th September. The 2016 Homeless World Cup was in Glasgow, Scotland, from July 10-16. The summer 2017 event will be in Oslo, Norway.
What is the history of the Homeless World Cup?
The Homeless World Cup was co-founded by Mel Young and Harald Schmied, who came up with the idea following a conference about homelessness in 2001. They wanted to change the lives of homeless people all over the world, and they believed football could help them do it. The first Homeless World Cup tournament took place in Graz in 2003, and the event and network has been growing steadily ever since, occupying a pioneering role in the field of Sport and Development.
More information about the history of the Homeless World Cup, visit the Tournament page.
How does football help homeless people?
Homelessness forces people into isolation, which affects their ability to share, communicate their thoughts, and work with others. When a homeless person gets involved in football, they build relationships and become teammates who learn to trust and share. They have a responsibility to attend training sessions and games, to be on time, and to be prepared to participate. They feel that they are part of something larger than themselves. The sense of empowerment that comes from participating in street football helps homeless people see that they can change their lives.
Football also improves other aspects of a homeless person’s life, such as physical health and self-esteem, and experience has shown that it is an effective way of engaging homeless people who have not responded to other methods of intervention.
Why hold a Homeless World Cup Tournament?
The Homeless World Cup is the highlight of the year for our National Partners and provides an aspirational goal for players. The experience is transformational for both participants and members of the audience and challenges attitudes towards homelessness. Players represent their country in front of a supportive audience when previously they were alienated from mainstream society. They are given the opportunity to travel as well as meet people who have faced similar challenges. The tournament is designed to be competitive, but its special structure and emphasis on fair play mean that everyone plays until the last day. There are several levels of competition and trophies to win, providing a sense of achievement for teams of all skill levels.
The Homeless World Cup also challenges societal attitudes towards homeless people. Research by La Trobe University has shown that it significantly impacts attitudes towards homeless people for the better among members of the audience.
What happens to players after the annual Homeless World Cup Tournament?
National Partners integrate football with other approaches locally. When players return, a huge percentage of them improve their lives through education, employment in social enterprises and other businesses, substance abuse rehabilitation, and supported housing. An amazing 94% of players consistently say that the Homeless World Cup has had a positive impact on their lives. The feeling of belonging, challenge of working in a team, regaining a health-oriented attitude towards life, self-esteem, experience of representing their country, and last but not least the experience of fun is a powerful combination to change a person’s life.
I want to support the Homeless World Cup. What can I do?
There are many different ways to help depending on who you are and how much you would like to contribute:
– Become a volunteer – volunteer applications are currently closed
Who can I contact for press inquiries?
Please visit the Press Centre, where you can fill in the press contact form.
Who is eligible to compete in the tournament?
Participants must be at least 16 years old, have not taken part in previous Homeless World Cup tournament, and meet at least one of the following criteria:
– Have been homeless at some point in the last year, in accordance with the national definition of homelessness
– Make their main living income as street paper vendor
– Asylum seekers currently without positive asylum status or who were previously asylum seekers but obtained residency status
– Currently in drug or alcohol rehabilitation and also have been homeless at some point in the past two years
For full eligibility criteria, please see the Amsterdam 2015 rules.
How does the Homeless World Cup define homelessness?
Homelessness is defined according to the national context of each country. If a country has a legal definition of homelessness, this will be used to determine eligibility. In countries without a legal definition, working definitions by local housing NGOs or academics are used.
How many teams can each country enter?
Each country can apply to send a men’s/mixed and a women’s team.
How are players selected for the national team?
The national team(s) for each country are selected by the local National Partners in that country. National Partners recruit participants by putting the word out, for example through adverts in street papers and posters in hostels. They then select a team of eight players (or two teams of eight players each, if they are bringing a men’s/mixed and a women’s team), taking into account level of commitment, personal attitude, and sporting ability.
How can homeless players afford travel and other expenses?
The National Partners raise funds for the running of their programme and tournament participation through donations, government grants, sponsorship, and other fundraising channels.
Food and accommodation at the event itself are provided.
Where does the tournament take place?
Temporary seated stadiums are purpose built in a busy city-centre location, with play taking place on specially constructed enclosed street-football pitches.
How are host cities chosen?
Localities apply to host the Homeless World Cup and are evaluated based on a number of criteria, including but not limited to:
– An active Homeless World Cup National Partner organization in the country
– Assurance of visas for participating nations
– A strong local organizer with support from necessary government and business interests
– A high-profile venue and adequate accommodation
– Potential for lasting impact
How many people attend the event?
The event is free to attend, and our audience has been growing steadily each year. In 2005 in Edinburgh, between 50-60,000 people attended during one week. In Cape Town, this grew to over 100,000 people, which was repeated in Melbourne 2008. In 2012, 168,000 people attended the tournament in Mexico City.
In addition, thousands of people log on to the web to watch the live stream and millions more follow the action via social media. The event also attracts media coverage all over the world.
How many teams take part?
Typically, 48 men’s/mixed teams and 16 women’s teams are invited to the tournament.
What are the different levels of competition?
There are two overall categories, men’s/mixed and women’s. The Homeless World Cup tournament structure is based on Rugby Sevens, with three stages of competition and several different trophies to win on finals day.
After the draw, each team plays all of the other teams in their group once. Their relative position in the preliminary group determines the group they will play in during the Second Stage.
Each team plays each other team in its Group once in a round robin format. Once all the Group games have been completed, the teams’ final position determines the last Stage of the competition. Teams than finish first or second within their group advance to play for the Homeless World Cup (men’s/mixed) or Women’s Homeless World Cup (women’s). Those who finish in third and fourth place in their group compete for the next highest trophy, and so on.
Eight teams compete for each trophy, with each competition now following the standard form of quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. This includes placing games for all teams. All teams play three games in the Trophy Stage.
The structure of the tournament ensures that each team plays matches until the final day of competition. The standard of football varies considerably across teams, and as the tournament progresses, teams become more evenly matched in terms of skill which provides a rewarding experience for players and audience alike.
What are the match rules?
Please refer to the Tournament Rules page for details.