A GLOBALLY renowned football tournament set up to promote social inclusion around the world is to return to its Scottish roots for the first time in over a decade.
Organisers of the Homeless World Cup yesterday revealed the event will be held in Glasgow this summer, with hundreds of players and tens of thousands of spectators set to attend.
The tournament, described by its founder as a “real celebration of optimism”, has become one of the most successful events of its kind.
Since its inception in 2003, it has toured the world, showcasing the best homeless players and providing football sessions for young people.
Now, 11 years after it was last held in Scotland, those behind the initiative believe the ingredients are in place to make the Glasgow event the most memorable yet, with the city’s George Square converted into a venue for the duration of the seven-day tournament.
Mel Young, president of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, said: “We are happy to be bringing the Homeless World Cup back to Scotland and know Glasgow will be an amazing host city, with George Square the focal point.
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council and Culture Sport Glasgow to deliver what we’re sure will be the biggest tournament yet.”
Mr Young, who co-founded the Big Issue magazine in Scotland, added: “We want people to come to George Square in their tens of thousands and feel that sense of optimism, and to be inspired by it. Knowing Glasgow as we do, there are surely few better places in the world to celebrate our movement.”
The event, which begins on 10 July, will welcome 64 teams representing 61 countries. Three purpose-built pitches with seating will be erected in George Square with up to 100,000 spectators expected, thanks to free entry.
Jamie Hepburn, minister for sport, said he was “delighted” the Scottish Government had been able to fund the tourney.
Mr Hepburn said: “The Homeless World Cup teaches us about the power of sport to bring people together and change lives for the better.
“Every one of the players will have a powerful story. Many of them have experienced real hardship, but all are on the path to a more positive future, and it’s inspirational to see the role that sport is playing in their lives.”
David Duke, the founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, the organisation that selects, coaches and mentors the Scottish team at the Homeless World Cup, said it would be great for the nation’s players to be able to “represent their country on home turf”.