Almost 500 players from close to 50 nations have arrived in the Welsh capital to compete in the 17th edition of the Homeless World Cup.
Initially created to harness the power of sport in transforming the lives of people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion, over one million people are said to have benefited from the tournament since its introduction in Austria in 2003.
With bids to land the worldwide tournament in Cardiff this year, Welsh actor and activist Michael Sheen took a hands-on approach in making it a reality.
“When I attended the Homeless World Cup in Oslo in 2017, I knew we had to bring it to Wales,” said Sheen.
“Just two years later that dream is very much a reality, and I for one could not be prouder of what an extremely dedicated group of people have managed to achieve in bringing this wonderful tournament to Wales.”
The Welsh teams have been selected through Street Football Wales, which has been behind programmes to aid social inclusion through sport since the inaugural tournament back in 2003.
Kerri Harris has managed the team throughout that time, running four leagues with over 40 teams around Wales for people experiencing homelessness – adding that she is “bursting with pride” to see her players play for their country in front of a home crowd.
The week-long event begins in Cardiff’s Bute Park on Saturday 27th July and continues until 3rd of August – with the opening match kicking off at 12.30pm.
The event also comprises a range of live music and entertainment, including a space for high profile speakers and the public to engage in discussion and debate inequality and injustice – a collaboration with independent think tank The Bevan Foundation.
Further talks will focus on issues including street homelessness, compassion, modern slavery and human trafficking, the story of the Homeless World Cup, and whether Wales can really end homelessness.
Commenting on the World Cup, Mel Young, co-founder of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, said: “Since 2003, we have witnessed transformations to the lives of thousands of players and a wonderful spectacle of football.
“The Cardiff 2019 Homeless World Cup will be a fantastic event – the city and its people have embraced our event truly and are welcoming players from all around the world to enjoy this festival of football that will, without a doubt, change the lives of participators and spectators alike.”
Pictured: Homeless World Cup Santiago 2014 by Alex Walker.