Sports Minister meets Street Football players heading for the Homeless World Cup 2012
Sports Minister, Huw Lewis has met with representatives from Street Football Wales as they get ready to fly to Mexico next week for the 2012 International Homeless World Cup.
The minister met some members from the Welsh Dragons team to wish them good luck in the competition. He said: "Participating in sport has many positive knock on effects such as improving health and physical fitness, self esteem, promoting good citizenship and giving people a purpose in life.
"Over 50 teams from across the world will compete and it is pleasing to know that Wales will be one of them and that there is worldwide interest in supporting those who find themselves homeless.
"I would like to wish each and every one of the players the best of luck and am sure they will enjoy this fantastic opportunity; it will be an event which they will never forget."
Welsh Dragons Team Manager, Paul Scarfi said: "The trip to Mexico is a once in a lifetime experience for the lads - I know - I went to the Homeless World Cup in 2009 and now I’m back as team manager.
"I’ll be sharing my experiences and knowledge with the team and I’m sure it’ll turn out to be as positive an experience for each team member as it has been for me."
The Homeless World Cup was founded in 2001 with the aim of using sport as a common ground to unite homeless people around the world. The first tournament took place in 2003 in Graz, Austria and sionce then, host cities have included Gothenburg, Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Cape Town, Melbourne, Milan, Rio de Janeiro and Paris. Mexico City is the host for the 2012 competition.
In 2009, the Welsh Government provided £1,500 to support the Welsh Dragons Football Team to enable them to compete in the Homeless World Cup in Milan. They won several games in the tournament and the team thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were thrilled to represent Wales. In the years following, funding was not available but thanks the Welsh Government, Sport Wales, Gwalia and other sporting partners, Wales is able to send a team this year to compete against teams from 56 nations around the world.
The Dragons are run by Street Football Wales (SFW) which recently gained funding from the Big Lottery Fund to create a new league in Newport/Cardiff and Swansea. The £172,520 award will enable the programme to create a Wales-wide street football network for homeless or socially excluded people for the next three years.
SFW is a social inclusion project designed to engage with those furthest away from mainstream sport provision. It has been proved that recreational and cultural activities can play a vital role in building the confidence of homeless people to address long term problems. Sport can play a huge part in breaking the cycle of homelessness amongst vulnerable people and SFW monitors the progress of participants in relation to homelessness and other needs such as mental wellbeing and health, substance misuse and housing advice and support. The league involves both men and women using a fair play points system to build self development into actual rewards.