The Homeless World Cup was conceived in 2001 in a bar in Cape Town, South Africa.
“I was having a beer with my great friend Harald Schmied who ran a street paper for homeless people in Graz, Austria. We had been taking part in the annual conference of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP),” explains co-founder Mel Young. “We sat up late into the night talking about how we could all change the world.”
Mel and Harald agreed that the conference had been great, but they were concerned that it was a gathering of editors, founders, and directors. No people experiencing homelessness had attended.
They posed the question: How could they involve homeless people in the same international inspiration they were experiencing?
After lengthy discussions, they came upon the idea of football, the universal language.
“By the end of the night we had invented the Homeless World Cup, where teams from all over the world could represent their country in a week long street soccer tournament. It was a lively and animated conversation and we both imagined a colourful football competition which would change people’s lives,” said Mel.
The first Homeless World Cup took place 18 months later in Graz, Austria, in July 2003.
Mel Young and Harald Schmied at the 2006 Homeless World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama / Icon Image Trainee
A Message from Mel
From humble beginnings in 2001, the Homeless World Cup and its partners now span the globe, with more than 70 countries taking part and more wanting to join. We touch the lives of 100,000 homeless people each year and make a significant change to the lives of many—all through the beautiful game of football.
However, with 100 million people homeless globally, we’re still just scratching the surface. We need to galvanize our global fan base if we’re really going to make a difference.
My message to people always is: Do small things. If we all do something small, we’ll change the world.
Together, we can change lives through football.
Mel Young, Co-Founder and President, Homeless World Cup
Harald Schmied studied History/Social Studies and German Linguistics at The University of Graz and Management of Social Innovations at the University of Applied Science in Linz.
He is currently working as Head of Communications & Fundraising, as well as Member of the Management Board, at Caritas Styria. His previous positions included CEO of the Homeless World Cup in 2004 and Editor-in-Chief of the Graz-based street paper Megaphon (1998-2004). Before that, he worked as a teacher and a freelance journalist.
For his role as a co-founder of the Homeless World Cup and the inauguration of the first event in Graz, Austria in 2003, he was awarded with the Styrian Human Rights Prize in 2004.
Photo by JJ Kucek
Mel Young is currently the President and co-founder of the Homeless World Cup. He is a globally recognised social entrepreneur who co-founded The Big Issue in Scotland in 1993, the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) in 1995 and Social Entrepreneurs Network Scotland (Senscot) in 1999.
Mel is also a Fellow of the Schwab Foundation of the World Economic Forum and a Senior Ashoka Fellow – both international organisations that bring together leading social entrepreneurs. He is currently Chair of sportscotland, the national agency for sport in Scotland.
He has been awarded five honorary degrees from Scottish universities. He is a lifelong supporter of Hibernian FC and the author of GOAL! The story of the Homeless World Cup.
Photo by Anita Milas / Homeless World Cup