The Homeless World Cup is taking place in Chile at the moment and the Irish team are through to the second group stage.
This is the twelfth year of the annual Homeless World Cup. The aim of the organisers is “to transform lives of homeless people through football.”
The Irish team are organised by the Irish Homeless Street League charity. Ranging in age from 19 to 39, the players have all experienced adversity in their lives.
Baby of the team, 19-year-old Paul McNevin, got involved in a spiral of drug-taking and crime to support the habit after an injury halted his rugby career.
“I got addicted very quickly. It completely changed my life,” he told irishstreetleague.com. “I changed totally, starting rowing with my ma. She and I had always been really close. Then I started robbing people to get money for drugs.”
Counsellors in the Matt Talbot rehab centre in Ballyfermot put him in touch with the street league and he began to rebuild his life.
“I was picked for the World Cup Squad. I’ve never been picked for anything in my life before,” said McNevin. “Everyone here (managers, coaches and social coaches) are so lovely to each other, it’s great to be around them; they’re so supportive.”
“Being part of this has given me a lot of confidence in myself because it definitely took a battering over the last few years.”
Many of the players in recovery from addiction and others have suffered the confidence-draining effects of long-term unemployment and the resulting poverty. The work of the charity and their involvement in preparations and training for the Homeless World Cup have given them a positive focus.
The tournament began on Sunday and so far the Irish lads have won three of the four matches they played, enough to see them through to the second group stage.
Their next match is at 3.20pm today, best of luck lads!
You can watch a live-stream of the match here.
For more information on the work of the Irish Homeless Street League check out their website.