Homeless World Cup Soccer Tournament Arrives in California

Sacramento Hosts Homeless World Cup

Homeless World Cup Soccer Tournament

California’s homelessness crisis has reached alarming proportions, with tens of thousands of people living on the streets or in makeshift encampments. The state is home to 30 percent of the nation’s homeless population, despite having only 12 percent of the total population. Against this backdrop, the Homeless World Cup Soccer Tournament , a soccer tournament for athletes who have experienced homelessness within the past two years, takes on significant meaning. Sacramento will host the weeklong competition, marking the first time the event has been held in the United States since its inception 20 years ago.

The Homeless World Cup Soccer Tournament , previously held in cities like Mexico City, Paris, Cape Town, and Copenhagen, aims to rehabilitate participants by involving them in soccer and working toward a common goal. By training and playing with a team, individuals build relationships, develop confidence, and acquire skills that can help them secure employment and housing. James McMeekin, the chief operating officer of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, based in Edinburgh, explains that for many participants, simply stepping onto the court is a personal victory in itself.

The to Homeless World Cup Soccer Tournament features teams from various countries, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Brazil, and Indonesia, among others. Around 500 athletes, selected from approximately 100,000 players in training programs around the world, will compete at California State University, Sacramento. The matches are fast-paced, four-on-four contests played on areas slightly smaller than basketball courts, with men’s, women’s, and coed teams all taking part.


Sacramento Hosts Homeless World Cup: Soccer Tournament Aims to Tackle Homelessness

The impact of the Homeless World Cup goes beyond the field. Lisa Wrightsman, a coach for the U.S. women’s team, shares her own transformational experience as a player in the 2010 tournament in Rio de Janeiro. She emphasizes the joy and sense of community that playing soccer brought back into her life after facing challenges and struggling with substance abuse. Wrightsman highlights the significance of the competition as a safe space for participants to acknowledge their shared history while celebrating their commitment to personal growth and a better future. For her, having the tournament in her hometown is particularly meaningful.

Sacramento, the host city, has not been immune to the homelessness crisis. The number of homeless individuals in Sacramento County rose to 9,278 in 2020, up from around 5,570 in 2019. However, the support and cooperation of local businesses, regional officials, and Sacramento State have made it possible to bring the Homeless World Cup to the city. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg expresses his excitement and describes hosting the event as a tremendous honor. He believes that the tournament showcases a different side of homelessness, emphasizing that everyone can be part of a team, participate, and work towards a better life.

Lawrence Cann, the founder of Street Soccer USA, a nonprofit organization that runs soccer leagues for homeless individuals and trains them for the Homeless World Cup Soccer Tournament, explains that practicing and playing with a team allows formerly homeless people to be seen in a new light by the public and even by themselves. When spectators witness these teams excelling at soccer, it challenges stereotypes and prompts a reevaluation of homelessness. Cann notes that people often think, “These guys can’t be homeless.”

If you’re in the Sacramento area, you can attend the matches free of charge, or you can watch the livestream to witness the power of the Homeless World Cup Soccer Tournament  in action.

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