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High hopes for Homeless World Cup

Published: Fri, 1 Sep 2017
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Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon speaking at the event
Mayor at IFA launch
Northern Ireland will be at the annual Homeless World Cup which takes place this year in Santiago, Chile (October 19-26).
This is the second time NI has competed in the competition, making a successful debut last year in Poland. Supporters and friends gathered for the team announcement at the Skainos Centre in East Belfast today.
The Lord Mayor of Belfast Nichola Mallon attended the event and took the time out to chat to the players about the upcoming tournament. The Lord Mayor has a vested interest in sport, and the players enjoyed the opportunity to speak with her at the launch.
The Homeless World Cup gives opportunities to people who have experienced homelessness a chance to use the power of football to re-energise their lives.Teams from over 65 countries will compete in the international football event, which has been running now for the last 11 years. The organizers expect over 200,000 spectators at the event.
This year’s team are supported by: Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, East Belfast Mission, Irish Football Association, DePaul, Extern, OakleeTrinity, Belfast Community Sports Development Network, Community Foundation Northern Ireland, OrmeauEnterprises.
The 8 young men who will represent Northern Ireland have all been selected from 5-a-side leagues (run by NI Street League) which take place weekly in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry, and are supported by the Irish Football Association through EU PEACE III Funding, Comic Relief, East Belfast Mission andSported. These leagues provide opportunities to those who have experienced homelessness, long term unemployment and drug and alcohol addictions, to compete in regular football.  
Selection for the World Cup team was not made on playing ability alone, but on the commitment of the players to make positive changes to their lives.
The playing team of eight will be accompanied by a dedicated support team, all of whom have been involved in the preparation of the squad. Steven Weldon, who will be travelling as a trainee coach said, “I am really excited to be heading to Chile as part of the Support Team for the NI Squad. I was honoured to represent NI last year and play in the tournament, now I am returning as a coach for the team. The issues and problems they have faced, I have been there, and I am grateful for the opportunity to give something back to the project.”
This year’s team Captain BrendanKingsmore said: “Football brings me a different level of happiness. I care more about my life thanks to football. I literally owe my life to football”.
Justin McMInn Team Manager  said'This is a dream come true for the players, representing their country in a World Cup is an amazing achievement. It's a once in life time experience that will help bring positive change to their lives.'   
Irish FA Director of Football Development, Michael Boyd, who is a Coach Mentor for Street League said: “The Homeless World Cup is a celebration of all our hard work with partners such as the East Belfast Mission over the last four years providing football, health and education opportunities for some of the most marginalised men in Northern Ireland.  NI Street League is making history,with the participants acting as strong ambassadors for smashing the stigma of homelessness.”
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nichola Mallon said: “To have been selected to take part in this tournament is a fantastic achievement of which these young men should be very proud.
"People have a lot of misconceptions about homelessness and what it means to be homeless; but events like this seek to educate and raise awareness about a very important issue. I wish all the players every success and hope that that this proves to be a very positive experience for them.”
“This project has received generous support froma wide variety of organizations. It is a great example of people working together to tackle homelessness and create lasting change in people’s lives. I would like to thank all of our partners for making this possible”.Aidan Byrne, Manager of Hosford (the homelessness project of East Belfast Mission).
Siobhan McCauley, the Housing Executive’s Director of Regional Services said,
“I am delighted to support the Northern Ireland Team in the Homeless World Cup. The Housing Executive recognises the multi-faceted nature of homelessness, the associated risks for homeless people of becoming socially excluded.  The prevention of homelessness is about much more than simply providing accommodation.  Participation in team sport builds self-esteem, encourages self-discipline, improves physical health and develops skills that will contribute to preventing repeat homelessness and transform people’s lives.  I wish the best of luck to the Northern Ireland team”
Gavin Adams, Director of Business Development, Extern:  “Extern is delighted to be supporting the ‘Homeless World Cup’. We believe that everyone has the ability to make a positive contribution to society and are delighted that two of our clients will represent their country in this prestigious event”
Regular updates from the tournament will be provided from the team and updated onto www.irishfa.com, www.facebook.com/footballforallNI, and @footballforall # #TeamNIChile. For more information on Street League please contact the Irish FA on 028 90669 485
The team will set off to Chile from the Irish Football Association’s headquarters at Windsor Avenue on Friday 17 October at 11.30am.