Hollywood actor Colin Farrell thrilled Homeless World Cup players and supporters today with a surprise visit to the event in Amsterdam.
Farrell is a long-time supporter of the tournament and was announced as a Homeless World Cup Ambassador in June. He said he is happy to support a tournament that champions the power of football to change lives.
“I have seen how the Homeless World Cup really does inspire homeless people to change the direction of their lives,” said the Irish actor, and star of In Bruges and American TV series True Detective.
“It’s nothing short of a movement, it’s incredible. This is all about the athletes and the competitors here and how they are bettering themselves through sport.”
On the first day of the tournament, Farrell cheered on the men’s team from Ireland during their opening match against Ukraine. Despite suffering a disappointing 1-6 loss, the side’s spirits were lifted when the actor gave them a post-match pep talk in the players’ area.
“They told us he was a Homeless World Cup ambassador but we never actually thought we would get to meet him,” said stunned Ireland captain, Joseph Thompson.
“He told us that we had to keep our heads up because it was only the first game. There’s plenty more games to play. He said just stay with our goal and that he’s backing us the whole way through.”
“It’s great to someone who is that big and that famous come over here just to support us,” he added.
— Irish Street League (@IrishStLeague) September 12, 2015
After a family breakdown, Joseph slept rough on the street of his hometown Portlaoise when he was a teenager. Eventually, his friends found out about his situation and helped him find a place in sheltered accommodation.
After being picked from 400 players across Ireland, today Joseph is representing his country on an international stage. “I can’t really believe I’m here and playing with my country’s jersey. It’s an honour,” he said.
The 21-year-old even got the chance to have a kick-around with Farrell when he joined the Irish team on the practice pitch. Despite claiming he’d been gifted with two left feet, the actor managed to put one past the Irish goalkeeper.
Irish Street League founder Sean Kavanagh said Farrell’s presence was a huge morale boost for his players.
“It’s great that they have his support. Colin is genuinely enthusiastic about it and recognises the value of sport and what it can do to change lives.”
Sean is also the founding editor of the Irish street paper, Ireland’s Big Issue, and gave the Hollywood star a copy of the magazine.
Farrell added that he greatly admired the efforts of street papers like Ireland’s Big Issue around the world to support and give a voice to the homeless.
The actors says he has bought Ireland’s Big Issue and The Big Issue in the UK for many years and still remembers the vendor he used to buy from in Dublin.
“The homeless, in media especially, haven’t got a voice… so what they do is incredible,” Farrell told INSP.
“The work and outreach programmes that street papers like The Big Issue does, and the work the Homeless World Cup does too, are brilliant,” he added.
Farrell first got involved with the Homeless World Cup in 2008, when he narrated the documentary Kicking It, which follows seven players from around the world on their way to the 2006 Homeless World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa.
A future project could see the actor help to tell the story about the tournament in front of the camera. Farrell has plans to produce and star in a movie about homeless men taking part in a soccer tournament, based on the Homeless World Cup.
You can watch the documentary Kicking It in full here.