Since it was established ten years ago, the Homeless World Cup has done a great job of encouraging people to change their own lives and develop solutions to homelessness through their unique tournament. Playing a special kind of five-a-side, teams from all around the world have competed in the tournament, with the latest holders of the annual trophy being Chile.
Proudly wearing Umbro kits, Chile beat the favourites Mexico in the 2012 competition to become the Homeless World Cup champions, turning the players into national heroes overnight (the picture above shows the team meeting the Chilean President and First Lady). Now, as they look forward to defending their title in Poland, the Chile team have been invited to play a one-off game later today in New York's Times Square. Ahead of this very special moment organised by Street Soccer USA, we spoke to two members of the Chile team, Michael Coronado and Germán Rubilar, about their experiences with the team and the effect it's had on their lives. Here's what they had to say..You’ve been invited by Street Soccer USA to play an exhibition match in Times Square. How does that feel?
'I’m very happy to represent my country in this amazing event. I’ve been playing Street Soccer for over 2 years in the workshop in my district of Talagante, and I’m very proud to have been selected. I’m very excited about the trip and very eager to play in this fantastic exhibition match.'
is such a famous setting, so I imagine it will be special to play soccer there?
'In Chile we always see all the events that take place in Times Square. My family and I still can’t believe that I’ll be playing the sport that I am most passionate about there. It’s a dream come true.'
How do you think playing in such a game will affect people’s attitudes towards the players, and homelessness in general?
'It can only
have a positive effect. Street Soccer in Chile is the biggest social sports
responsibility program in the country, and it has helped me to get away from my
bad habits and dedicate myself to this sport. I think this trip will show the
importance of the sport to the people in my country and they will realize what
Homeless Football can mean worldwide.'
How did you become involved in the Chilean Homeless Football Team? How long as Chile had a Homeless Team?
Homeless National Team was created in the year 2006, with our teacher Juan
Erazo. The possibility of being part of the national team appeared during the
Homeless National Tour, which was being held around the country. During the
visit to my city, Juan saw me play and immediately invited me to participate in
this trip to the USA. I didn’t have to think twice and thank God, my dream is
The Chilean team is made up of players from all regions of the country, how important is that for the team spirit and unity?
important. In the past, the national team only had players from the Homeless
workshop in Santiago, but this year thanks to the National Tour each of the
members of the squad will be representing their region, which makes this
national team the first one to be representative of the whole country. It makes
me very proud and at the same time makes it a great challenge to be part of
Looking back at the 2012 Homeless World Cup final, Chile were a surprise winner for many. How did it feel to beat the favourites, Mexico?
'It felt great. We played with the confidence that we would win the game. We saw the videos and some games of our opposition during the tournament and we knew their strengths and weaknesses. We knew we could win. I think the real final was the previous game against Brazil in the semi final.'
What effect has that
victory had on the Chilean team? Do the players see themselves differently now?
'They felt very grateful about having the opportunity of playing a World Cup, knowing other cultures and playing against different countries. It changed the way I looked at football and make me realize that all teams that were participating already were champions, because they had won the battle of the difficult life they have. Homeless football had already changed my life, but going to the World Cup was an award for our effort and the perseverance in our workshops. It changed our lives.'
What effect has it had on
people’s attitudes to the team?
'First of all, winning the World Cup made the Homeless project known all over the country. During the National Tour the game is now played by women, men and children. Everybody wants to play this type of football and that’s thanks to the work of everyone involved in this project. And personally it also changed how people look at you, they want an autograph, a picture and they make you feel important. I’m very happy to be a street soccer player.'
ahead, there’s the 2013 tournament in Poland coming up, are Chile confident of
success again? No team has ever won the tournament twice in a row, do you think
Chile can be the first to do so?
I think so. We know that it won’t be easy, but I feel that working hard and training with responsibility and very seriously we can have a chance. We are the champions and that’s a responsibility that we have to accept with seriousness and maturity. That’s why we are training very hard not to give away the title and even more, we want to win it in both the men’s and women’s categories.'
not allowed to return and play for the team again after playing in a previous tournament.
Does this make it difficult to get a team working together successfully?
'I don’t think so. Our coach is the same as last year. Juan knows a lot about this sport and with his training methology we have a good chance. We represent the longest country in the world and each one of us has the quality and competence to form a great team. We all represent our neighbourhood, we are from the street and that’s where the talent is in this sport.'
who hasn’t seen a game in the Homeless World Cup, the format is quite different
to a normal game of football. Can you explain a little bit about
'First of all,
the goalkeeper cannot leave the area, if he does, it’s a penalty kick against
you. At the same time, outfield players can’t enter the area. Goals
are valid from everywhere. You cannot tackle to take the ball. There’s a blue card that takes you out
for two minutes and a red card that takes you out of for the rest of the game. Most
important is that when you attack you can do it with the three field players,
but you can only defend yourself with two, so you are constantly at a
disadvantage. The game lasts fourteen minutes, divided into two halves of seven
minutes. It’s very intense and there are a lot of goals, so it’s very
attractive to watch and to play.'
Chile will host the 2014 World Cup, what effect do you think that will have on the country? What can the players from other teams around the world expect from Chile and its people?
'For Chile, it’s an honour. Football is the most popular sport in the country and we have never won anything at a world class level. However, we can now say that we are Homeless World Cup champions and that’s a big thing. All countries and delegations that come to our country will find great organization with top technology and most important of all, warm and friendly people that will be glad to receive the players that have the same dream we all have.'
Thanks to Michael and Germán for taking the time to speak to us about their game in Times Square - and best of luck to them in the game!