Street paper vendors are among the hundreds of players heading to Glasgow this week to take part in the Homeless World Cup 2016.
More than 100,000 spectators are expected to watch 512 players from 52 countries compete in the heart of the Scottish city.
The Homeless World Cup was first dreamed up at an INSP summit – and the links between the street paper movement and street soccer remain strong.
Swiss street paper Surprise, Greece’s Shedia, German paper BISS, Ireland’s Big Issue, Russian paper Put Domoi and The Big Issue Australia are among the many street paper organisations that also run street soccer projects.
Ruedi Kälin has been selling Surprise in Zurich for more than 14 years. He is very proud to be on the Swiss national team for this year’s Homeless World Cup.
“I am very proud that I can participate,” he said. “It is a big challenge for me, personally, because of my age. I will show that at 57 years old, you can do something crazy like this!”
Ruedi admitted that he has had to get over some nerves in the run up to the tournament.
“At the beginning I was very nervous and I didn’t think that I could really go to Scotland,” he added. “Now I feel much better and I’m looking forward to be there! I will take my favourite music with me. It calms me in difficult moments.”
Shedia vendor Stella Mavridou has sold the street paper in Thessaloniki, Greece for more than a year. She is one of four female Shedia vendors in the Greek women’s team.
The 59-year-old said she doesn’t have high hopes for their team, but she is looking forward to the trip.
“I am ready to go on this amazing adventure,” she added. “I had, and still have, many problems in my life. I’ve never been to Glasgow but I am sure it will be a lovely city. In fact, I’ve never travelled abroad since 1981. It will be the last trip in my life. I don’t think there’s a chance to travel again. So, I have decided to take advantage of every moment.
“Speaking about football, let’s be honest, I don’t think we are going to win any games, but I am sure that we will give all we have. This is our goal. To do our best and to enjoy every moment of this trip.”
Shedia’s editor Christos Alefantis will be travelling to Glasgow with the Greek team. He said: “I look forward to visiting beautiful Glasgow and being part of this glorious social and sporting global event.”
Christos is very clear on his goal for the tournament. “As always, we aim for the Fair Play Award,” he said. “We are the only team to have been awarded this most important trophy on two occasions: in 2007 and in 2015.
“I think it says a lot about how we approach our Homeless World Cup participation. We play football not to become better footballers but to become better people.”
Drago Slaček sells Kralji Ulice in Maribor, the second biggest city in Slovenia. At 53, he has been selected for his nation’s Homeless World Cup team.
“I can’t say that we will win, we’re not that good,” he said. “The most important thing is not to win, but to participate. It would be great if we’re successful and win at least few games. I’m sure that with my participation and being a part of a great team, I’ll gain some self confidence and most importantly self -progress.”
Ireland’s Big Issue editor Sean Kavanagh said that the Glasgow tournament will be extra special for the Irish team.
“There’s always a sense of excitement leading up to the tournament, coupled with a sense of relief that we have been able to put it all together once more,” he said. “Being in Glasgow will be extra special, seeing the connection the Irish team have with the Scots.”
He added that the street paper and the street soccer project work well together, as they reach different age groups. “The street soccer leagues connect with the youth, they see it as something they can enjoy and participate in without being judged. It helps build their self-esteem, self-confidence and self-discipline. Like the street paper, it helps build communication skills as they interact with other people. These are the fundamental building blocks to participating and moving on in life.”
BISS’s Managing Director, Karin Lohr, said they were sending a delegation of vendors to the Homeless World Cup. She added: “All of them are already very excited!”
INSP Chief Executive Maree Aldam said: “There is a lot of crossover between street papers and street soccer teams and we’re looking forward to welcoming some of our international street paper colleagues and vendors to Glasgow next week. We also look forward to covering the tournament as a media partner, for our international News Service for street papers.”
Maree said she hoped the tournament would “shine a light on Scotland’s fantastic contribution to the development of social enterprise.”
“INSP shares a long history with the Homeless World Cup, as two Scottish organisations working to provide opportunities to marginalised people around the world,” she added. “Having the tournament here will help raise awareness of innovative and positive solutions to poverty and homelessness.”
Follow our Homeless World Cup coverage here.