Article written for Total Football magazine.
On October 6, defending champions Scotland started their bid to retain the World Cup and win it for an unprecedented third time.
You might need to read that sentence again, don’t worry I’ll wait…
Yes, you did read it correctly. Scotland won the World Cup but it’s a tournament with a difference, all the players are homeless.
Homeless World Cup
The Homeless World Cup is in its tenth year and was created to bring together homeless organisations to raise awareness of the global situation.
The ethos is that football is used as a mechanism to bring homeless people together when normally they isolate themselves and live on the fringes of their families, their communities and society as a whole.
Becoming a team player gives them confidence, a chance to socialise and an overall sense of purpose.
The organisation’s that run and fund the teams appearing in the Mexico World Cup also provide advocacy services to get the players help with any issues they need to change their lives for the better.
One of the most successful homeless football organisations is Street Soccer Scotland.
David Duke, the founder of Street Soccer Scotland, knows what impact football can have on the homeless community as he lived on the streets of Glasgow himself.
In 2003, David visited a young person’s support centre that led him to play in the Scotland squad at the Homeless World Cup.
Realising its potential for helping people in his situation, Duke founded Street Soccer Scotland six years later.
Now it is one of the most successful social exclusion projects in the country.
Most participants through the scheme go onto college and some continue coaching football, using the skills and training they receive.
With words of encouragement from Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith and a final training session with ex Scotland keeper Andy Goram, the reigning world champions were in confident mood when they landed in Mexico.
Players James Noble, John Russell, Sallah Mboob, Jay Thomson, Liam Lang, Jonathan Lawrence, Ross Alexander and Mark Stack were all selected through national trials.
Like most of the players, captain Mark Stack was an addict for 18 years and even spent time in prison. Now after help from Street Soccer Scotland, Mark led his country out against Lithuania.
The match was tight, finishing 5-5, but unfortunately Lithuania beat Scotland 6-5 on penalties.
The Scots then lost 6-5 to Indonesia on day two, but they still have tio play Peru, Greece and India in the group stages.
Avert your eyes if you are England fan. They lost 15-1 to Brazil in their opening fixture before suffering a 10-0 defeat to hosts Mexico.
The English result was slightly better than the USA who lost 20-0 to Mexico.
It is important to remember that the Homeless World Cup isn’t about the results or the goal deficits, it is about the hope that it gives to the players who have lost their way in the past but found a route to Mexico and a better future.