Israelis transformed after taking part in Homeless World Cup in Cardiff

Dina left home at 22 and became a drug addict for the next 23 years. At the age of 45, she proudly wore a blue and white . She said the Cup had been a "life changing opportunity."

August 5, 2019 10:04
2 minute read.
Homeless World Cup in Cardiff

Homeless World Cup in Cardiff. (photo credit: HOMELESS WORLD CUP)

For many, soccer is a religion, but like other team sports it can be therapeutic too. Israel was one of the 50 countries to be represented at the 17th Homeless World Cup in Cardiff’s Bute Park in the heart of the Welsh capital, which finished this weekend.

Over 500 players from more than 50 countries took part in this week-long festival of soccer, but those who took part saw this was much more than just football - it was about giving disenfranchised people a sense of meaning, fulfillment and pride.

The aim of the tournament is not just to instill self-worth and motivation in the participants, but also to raise awareness for the plight of the homeless.

The participants in the competition have a variety of challenging backgrounds, including being asylum-seekers, addicts, and having become homeless within the year.

The social angle is also very important, as players from around the globe travel, meet new people and most importantly get a chance to hope for a better future.

The soccer is played on a small pitch, with four players on a team and each games lasting fourteen minutes. Not just the players themselves take part, but people come from all around the area to watch the games in the temporary stands in Bute Park - the place where many of Cardiff’s homeless pitch their sleeping bags during the rest of the year.

Dina was one of eight players from the Jerusalem-based 'Kick It Out' team brought to Wales for the World Cup.

Having left home at 22, the young mother became a drug addict for the next 23 years, the Jewish Chronicle reported. At the age of 45, she proudly wore a blue and white uniform to partake in this year's World Cup. She told the Jewish Chronicle it had been a "life changing opportunity."

Now, Dina is now sober, thanks partly to the services provided by Kick it Out.

'Kick it Out' is an Israeli charity that assists those suffering from homelessness - giving them housing, as well as legal advice, therapy and career guidance.

Yossi, 35, was also a player at this year's World Cup, according to the Jewish Chronicle. Having made aliyah at 10 years old with his family from Ethiopia, Yossi eventually served in the IDF. Upon his discharge from the military, however, Yossi began suffering from mental health issues and started using drugs. Yossi was an addict living in the streets of Tel Aviv for 10 years, but now lives in a hostel in Jerusalem.

Being part of the 'Kick It Out' team has literally changed his life, the Jewish Chronicle reported, saying that since joining in the tournament he has taken it very seriously and has hardly missed a coaching session.

Yossi said that now that the tournament is over he hopes to work toward moving into a new accommodation.

Omri Abramovitch, who founded the Kick It Out team, told the Chronicle that the change in the players outlook on life "is palpable."

“More than needing money, even more than needing housing, they wanted a friend, someone to care about them, talk to them, make them feel human," he said.

“That is why this trip is so important for them. They aren’t just playing [soccer]. They are seeing and doing things that are changing their lives.”

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