Sunday, 24 September 2006

Homeless World Cup kicks off

The 2006 Homeless World Cup kicked off today in Cape Town South Africa, known here as the Mother City.

It is an appropriate place to stage the tournament as it was here, 5 years ago, that the idea of hosting the event was first mooted by Scot Mel Young, then attending a conference of the international street newspaper conference as Editor of the Big Issue in Scotland.

Mel's vision grew and grew and after the initial successes in Austria, Gothenburg the tournament came Mel's home city of Edinburgh before arriving here in Cape Town.The tournament seeks to unite the homeless of the world via the universal language of football and raise awareness of this global inequity.
This year’s tournament was opened by President Thabo Mbeki and the first ball kicked by Africa's first totalling superstar the 1960's icon Eusebio of Benfica.

I was lucky enough to meet Eusebio this morning in our hotel foyer. He was instantly recognisable. Later I was astonished to meet EDINBURGH Provost Lesley Hinds who was attending in honour of last year's tournament hosts.
We watched Scotland’s opening match, a narrow 4-3 defeat to the Czech Republic.


Scotland were clearly upset by the failure of the tournament organisers to find the national anthem -Flower of Scotland- where they had to suffer a 5 minute indignity of being the only one of the 48 countries not to enter the magnificent 5000 seater stadium in the inimitable shadow of the world famous Table Mountain to the fanfare of their national song.

The seven strong Scots team of Francis Brodie, Laura Graham, Lindsay Cooper, James Shearer, Derek Spiers, Marc Steel and Liam Young were visibly upset by the shambles of first having no anthem and the then wrong one attributed to them.When the game itself finally got under way the Scots gave away three silly penalties for encroachment in the keepers red zone.

They did manage to save one and had a terrific Derek Spiers strike to cheer but were 2-1 down at halftime. Their second half performance was far better but even two more goals from Frank Brodie and a Spiers second could not make up for the early lapses in concentration as the young Scots went down bravely to a better organised Czech team.Better is expected from the Scots tomorrow in game two against France.

There is much to comment on at the end of the first days play, not least the need to constantly remind yourself that the impressive standards of footballing skills being exhibited are from homeless people across 48 countries. And at the end of day one the teams really catching the eye were England, South Africa, Portugal and Ireland.

My second report from the HOMELESS World Cup will follow tomorrow. I am off to bed to shake off the jet lag.

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