TALLINN - Six homeless Esto-nians will compete in the fourth annual Homeless Soccer World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, the daily Eesti Paevaleht reported. "The inspiration to begin training was given by Mel Young, founder of Homeless Soccer World Cup, who visited Estonia last year and was one of the main speakers at a management conference in Parnu," said Artur Taevere, leader of the soccer project and head of Heateo Sihtasutus (Good Act Foundation).
Recruitment began last December, when Taaevere searched several Tallinn homeless shelters for talent. However, finding volunteers proved more complicated than he had expected. "Many people regarded our soccer project as science fiction. It is difficult to motivate homeless people to practice sports," he said.
But despite the difficulties, seven homeless people, and a handful of volunteers from rehabilitation programs, have joined the team. The athletes, aged 21 to 42, have been training since January. Meanwhile, five members of the team have found jobs in construction or with moving companies.
Marek Randma is the volunteer coach of the homeless soccer players.
Yet Taevere's project is not cheap. Team organization, training, and the trip to Africa amounts to nearly 165,000 kroons (10,540 kroons), of which the Heateo Foundation will cover 15,000 kroons. Therefore, Taevere is looking for other financial supporters.
In the Homeless World Cup, the rules of the game are somewhat different from normal soccer: There are four players, including the goalkeeper, on a field measuring 22 by 16 meters. The game is divided into two halves, seven minutes each. Both men and women are allowed to play on one team.
A total of 48 countries and 500 players will take part in this year's Homeless World Cup. In addition, nearly 10,000 homeless people are involved in event preparations. The first Homeless World Cup took place in 2003 in Austria.