Homeless World Cup kicks off in Paris

The ninth Homeless World Cup, which involves around 500 homeless male and female football players, kicked off Sunday with a game between France and Portugal near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Homeless World Cup kicks off in Paris
Esme Deacon

The competition aims to help homeless people regain self-confidence and the organisers say close to three quarters of the previous editions’ participants have subsequently been able to shake off their addictions, find a home or a job.  

Emmanuel Petit, who scored in France’s victorious 1998 World Cup final against Brazil, was on the pitch with social entrepreneur Mel Young, who founded the Homeless World Cup in 2003, for kick-off.  

National anthems were followed by a minute of silence to honour the victims of the July 22 massacre in Norway, where 77 people, mainly youths, were killed by a lone right-wing extremist.  

No fewer than 64 teams, including 16 female squads, are lining up for the week-long tournament, which organisers hope will attract up 50,000 spectators. 

The five-a-side games are played on small synthetic turf pitches.  

“The impact of this competition is profound. It has engaged over 100,000 homeless people since it started and over 70 percent of participants have changed their lives for the better,” Mel Young said in a statement.  

“The Paris 2011 Homeless World Cup is an opportunity for homeless people to move from being invisible to stand proud on a global stage, and be the true ambassadors for their country that they are,” he added.  

Mel Young co-founded The Big Issue Scotland and the International Network of Street Papers.  

Boris Kirakian signed up for the competition because he hopes to find a job, something he has not been able to achieve because he does not have a valid residency.  

“I was born in Georgia but I have been living in France for 16 years now. Today, I have no choice and I am obliged to live with parents,” said the 27-year-old from the Normandy city of Caen.  

One of his team-mates, 22-year-old Jonathan Decombard, ended up on the street at the age of 16 after a break-up in his family.  

To qualify for the Homeless World Cup, participants have to be asylum-seekers or have been homeless in the course of the previous year.  

“We have very diverse population. Playing near the Eiffel Tower is a great way to attracting attention and showing the homeless under a different light,” said Benoit Danneau, the head of the organising committee.  

A three-day international conference is taking place on the competition’s sidelines to discuss the factors that bring people to live on the street and how they can pull themselves off it.  

Brazil won the 2010 edition of the competition in Rio.

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French government: All athletes must be vaccinated to compete in France

All athletes and sports professionals who wish to compete in France will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, government sources told AFP on Monday.

Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic
Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic. Photo: Oscar del Polzo/AFP

The French parliament has just given the go-ahead for the health pass to be converted into a vaccine pass, which means that anyone wishing to enter leisure and cultural venues – including sports grounds and stadiums – will have to be vaccinated.

This goes for the crowd, but also professional sports players and staff. The government has indicated that exemptions will not be made athletes who are based outside France.

The ministry said a new vaccine pass, “applies to everyone, to volunteers and to elite sportspeople, including those coming from abroad, until further notice.”

READ ALSO What changes when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass

Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said last week that certain events like the French Open could have a special exemption, when asked whether Novak Djokovic could play in the tournament, but this appears now to not be the case.

Questions had been asked about whether the unvaccinated Djokivic – recently deported from Australia – would be able to play in the French Open in May, but the ruling would affect all visiting sports professionals, including rugby teams from England, Ireland and Italy who are due to play in France during the Six Nations tournament in February and March.

Until now a health pass has been sufficient to enter sports grounds, which means unvaccinated players and fans were able to use a negative Covid test.

However once the vaccine pass enters into effect – scheduled to be later this week – only proof of vaccination will be affected.

French domestic sports teams were given the choice of either making sure that all their players and staff were fully vaccinated or playing behind closed doors.