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Costa Rica competes, fights poverty at Homeless World Cup

October 22, 2014

At the inauguration of the 2014 Homeless World Cup, founder Mel Young delivered a rousing speech.

“To the players, I would like to say you are standing proud, representing your country,” declared Young. “The world today for many, many people is not a good place. Too many people live frightened lives, trying to scratch out a living in the dark. We need to bring more light. We have to end homelessness and poverty, and we can do it – if everyone plays their part.”

Such is the mission of the Homeless World Cup. Young created the organization in 2008 as a way to combat desperate poverty with the world’s most popular pastime: soccer. A native of Scotland, Young has long demonstrated his interest in social issues, both by creating The Big Issue, a weekly publication sold by homeless people, and later by establishing the International Network of Street Papers.

This year’s Homeless World Cup is taking place in Santiago, Chile, a city of six million inhabitants that both struggles with extreme poverty and has attempted to help desperate neighborhoods in groundbreaking ways. The cup includes 42 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams from all over the world, representing such diverse nations as Peru, Sweden, Cambodia, and the Kyrgyz Republic.

The event puts the homeless in a spotlight in an innovative way. All of the players have recently lived on the street or in shelters. The organization uses grassroots volunteers to attract homeless people, train them in soccer and cultivate their skills, then invite outstanding athletes to participate annual, international tournaments.

While most of us will not be able to casually fly down to Chile to see the teams compete at the Plaza de la Ciudadenía, you can watch the games live:

Costa Rica got off to a rocky start, losing to Germany 3-5 on Sunday, then to Lithuania 2-5 on Monday. But the team went on to trounce Finland 11-0 on Tuesday, then tied 4-4 against Ghana on Wednesday. The cup wraps up on Sunday, Oct. 26.

For more information about the Costa Rican team, visit their profile page at the Homeless World Cup website.

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