United in Red

Michael and Mahir have had a different path to the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow. 

Both part of the OMBOLD programme. 

One has travelled 4,753 miles the other 654 miles to Glasgow. The journey however has been similar Struggling with addiction a way to cope with life. 

Michael was a professional handball player in Denmark, A bad injury leading him to cope using drugs. 

“Sometimes I just didn’t feel normal in my head , but through football I forget and I didn’t fit in anywhere else.”

Mahir left Somalia at the age of 11 and moved with his family to Alborg to escape the problems in his country, despite as he said feeling “very welcome in Denmark by the people”. He drifted into smoking weed and drinking, he realised  he needed to get away and move to Copenhagen for a fresh start.  Unfortunately he ended up homeless. His family struggled when he was selected for the tournament the stigma attached to the word. Now they have seen the progress and watch proudly as he plays for his new country. 

I asked them if they could sum at their experience at the tournament in one word. 

Michael said ‘Perfect’

Mahir thought for a while and struggled to find just one. 

“it has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget” he added “it has given me goosebumps”

I wondered what their experiences were meeting other countries and the similarities or differences in their Journeys. 

“I don’t know anything about them really All I see when I look in their eyes is footballers. I’m not worried about their past.”

They’ve learnt you can’t do it alone they find support in their team mates. This is why football changes lives the lessons learnt on the pitch are the same in life. 

They both love football and when they first met on the pitch they clashed, now the are teammates united in Red. And in the journey to a better life. 
Michael og Mahir har taget forskellige veje til Homeless World Cup, men begge er de en del af OMBOLD holdet. 

En har rejst 4,753 miles, den anden 654 miles for at nå til Glasgow. Begge rejser har dog involveret et misbrug, som en måde at håndtere livet på. 

Michael var en professional håndbold spiller i Danmark. En alvorlig skade fik ham til at starte med at bruge stoffer.  

”Nogle gange følte jeg mig bare ikke normal inde i hovedet, men fodbold får mig til at glemme og her føler jeg, jeg hører til.”

Mahir flygtede fra Somalia da han var 11 og flyttede sammen med hans familie til Aalborg, for at komme væk fra problemerne i hans hjemland. På trods af at han føler sig ”meget velkommen i Danmark” begyndte han at ryge meget hash og at drikke. Han havde brug for at komme væk og flyttede derfor til København for at starte på en frisk. Desværre betød det også at han endte som hjemløs. Da Mahir blev udtaget til hjemløselandsholdet, var hans familie i første omgang bekymrede pga. det stigmatiserende i at være hjemløs. Nu har de set hvordan han udvikler sig og de føler stolte med hjemmefra når han spiller for hans nye hjemland. 

Jeg spurgte dem om de kunne beskrive deres oplevelse ved Homeless World Cup med et ord.

Michael sagde ’perfekt’

Mahir tænkte sig godt om og havde svært ved at finde bare et:

“det har været en oplevelse for livet som jeg aldrig vil glemme” han tilføjede “det har givet mig gåsehud”.  

Jeg spekulerede på, hvilke erfaringer de havde gjort sig ved at møde de andre hold fra andre lande og om de havde gjort sig nogle overvejelser om hvorvidt disse spilleres rejse til Homeless World Cup lignede deres. 

Michaels kommentar var ”jeg ved ikke så meget om de andre spillere. Når jeg kigger dem i øjnene er de fodboldspillere og det er det, der betyder noget for mig”.

 Både Mahir og Michael elsker fodbold. Da de først mødtes på banen havde de interne kampe, nu spiller de begge i rødt og hvidt og har fundet stor støtte i holdet og troen på et bedre liv.

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A woman with no label….

In a rare sunny moment in George Square, Glasgow at the 2016 Homeless World Cup, I caught up with Eliane Rocha,  a 19 year old woman from Brasila.  Part of the Futbol Social project for the last 3 years. She has finally made it to the tournament. 

I asked her about her aspirations. 

“I really would like to be a professional footballer, or coach in a professional team” she beamed. 

I asked what her plan B was? 

“To go to university to become a lawyer” 

Some might say this is a dream that’s  impossible. Separated from her family of which there are 20. Living with friends and no savings, she earns money by selling clothes. 

The only female amongst her male team mates, she stands alone and proud. 

In 2010 I attended the Homeless World Cup in Brasil and heard a rumour. 

That rumour is a fact, in Brasil there is no word for ‘homeless’ you are poor or rich nothing else. If you are poor you should work harder to be rich. 

I tried to Imagine if in the UK we had no word, how would you fix a problem if there was no word for that problem, it’s the ultimate denial. 

No word, means no money, no money means no help, no recognition she even exists. 

So how does she think she would change things if she was in charge of Brasil for a day? 

” I think the morale of the country needs lifting, people feel hopeless, I would also introduce free education for all.” She stated. 

She may have no label, but she has a dream, which with every kick of the ball is turning into a goal. 

Eliane has taken ownership and certain pride in being homeless in a country that denies the word exists. 

Em um momento ensolarado raro em George Square, Glasgow na Copa dos Sem-Abrigo do Mundo de 2016, eu pego com Eliane Rocha, uma mulher de 19 anos de Brasila. Parte do projeto Futbol social para os últimos 3 anos. Ela finalmente fez-lo para o torneio.

Perguntei-lhe sobre suas aspirações.

“Eu realmente gostaria de ser um jogador de futebol profissional, ou um treinador em uma equipe profissional”, ela sorriu.

Perguntei o seu plano B era?

“Para ir para a universidade para se tornar um advogado”

Alguns poderiam dizer que este é um sonho que é impossível. Separada de sua família de que há 20. estar com amigos e sem poupança, ela ganha dinheiro vendendo roupas.

A única mulher entre os seus companheiros de equipa do sexo masculino, ela está sozinha e orgulhosa.

Em 2010 eu assisti a Copa do Mundo dos Sem-Abrigo no Brasil e ouviu um rumor.

Esse boato é um fato, no Brasil não há nenhuma palavra para ‘sem-teto’ você não é nada pobre ou rico mais. Se você é pobre, você deve trabalhar mais para ser rico.

Tentei Imagine se no Reino Unido tivemos nenhuma palavra, como você corrigir um problema se não havia nenhuma palavra para esse problema, é uma recusa absoluta.

Nenhuma palavra, significa sem dinheiro, sem dinheiro significa nenhuma ajuda, nenhum reconhecimento que ela ainda existe.

Então, como ela pensa que mudaria as coisas se ela estava no comando do Brasil por um dia?

“Eu acho que a moral do país precisa de levantamento, as pessoas se sentem sem esperança, eu também introduzir a educação gratuita para todos.” Ela afirmou.

Ela pode não ter nenhum rótulo, mas ela tem um sonho, que com cada pontapé da bola está se transformando em um objetivo.

Eliane tomou posse e certo orgulho de ser sem-teto em um país que nega existe a palavra.

A game of musical chairs

The Homeless World Cup event this year in Glasgow and will soon be taking place from 10 July to 17 July.

I thought this would be a good time to catch up on a couple of the stories from last years event.

I met Michael Stout, 39 years old, from St.Louis is part of the USA Streetsoccer team who was participating in Amsterdam. 

Michael was a very friendly man who always wore a smile and sat on the bench and chatted about his experience and his time in Amsterdam at the Homeless World Cup. 

“I think I would describe my time with the word euphoric, it has been truly amazing” he stated. 

He clarified “it’s the camaraderie between players and coaches and people in general in this environment it is quite unique.”


Michael explained that for the last 15 years he was an addict he had only had a HOME twice, and had been 2 years ago since he made a decision to do something with his life rather than just drifting.

Account on the street soccer program was in his hostel and encouraged him to come along to practice. 

So why does football work for you Michael ?

“it’s about the team and having a shared goal when we are on the pitch for 14 minutes we don’t think about anything else yes that shared mutual goal.”

“that’s the toolbox I now use of the pitch in the rest of my life setting goals and sharing them with others to make myself better”

I’ve had this expressed in many different ways over the last seven years and attending the Homeless World Cup. It’s so simple really but each person takes out of being involved in their individual programs something a little different one thing that they need.

So if you were president for a day ?

‘he laughs’

“It’s about moving our society from a monetary system towards a more resource based economy removing the need for more money, build hospitals all over the world or homes for everyone regardless if there is a profit to be made or not, after all we existed without money for thousands of years.”

Wow. 

“the system exists at the moment is like a big game of musical chairs and there aren’t enough chairs there is always more people than chairs, when the music stops there isn’t enough money or resources to go round, until we create more chairs there will always be somebody will be without a chair.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better answer to why homelessness exists in all my years. 

So what next for Michael? After all it’s a life changing experience. 

“i know now I’m not alone in this experience having been here. ”

“I felt like i was alone in this and its interesting to see that the people are the same not any different to me. When i go back i will be more empathetic  for those around me to see what i can do to help them rather than judge them. ”

This event impacts so many people in so many ways. I for one will never forget Michael and his “game of musical chairs”. 

Now to build more chairs. 

Jon Regler (CEO)