Northern Ireland

Team NI jets off to take part in Homeless World Cup in California

Team NI, which is representing the north at the upcoming Homeless World Cup in California.
Team NI, which is representing the north at the upcoming Homeless World Cup in California. Team NI, which is representing the north at the upcoming Homeless World Cup in California.

A TEAM of soccer players are on their way to the USA to represent the north in the Homeless World Cup.

The group are travelling to Sacramento in California this week with the support of the Street Soccer NI charity.

The annual tournament is being held for the first time since 2019 following the Covid pandemic.

Team NI will compete with teams from 60 countries in four-a-side matches during the week-long event, which kicks off on Thursday at Sacramento State’s Hornet Football Stadium.

Street Soccer NI co-founder Justin McMinn said the event provides a boost for disadvantaged people facing homelessness.

"We’ve witnessed over the years what a huge impact this event can have on people’s lives," he said.

Read more: MACS charity praises 'invigorating' work of Prince William to tackle homelessness in north

"Many come back full of motivation and confidence to make positive changes in their lives including getting a house, entering employment, becoming a volunteer and more.’’ 

The NI team captain this year is 30-year-old Syrian refugee Osama Almahmoud.

"After sleeping from house to house when I was homeless, Street Soccer NI helped me to find accommodation and they helped me with deposit and first month's rent," he said.

"After volunteering with them for a few months I am now working part-time with them. I have been chosen as captain to represent Northern Ireland at the Homeless World Cup in USA. I'm really thankful and proud I got chosen."

Among the sponsors for the squad is homeless charity The Simon Community.

Its CEO Jim Dennison said: ‘’With each year we see more and more individuals facing homelessness and with that comes a higher demand for our services. The work that Street Soccer NI achieves brings joy and positivity back into our community and provides our clients with the opportunity to get involved in the game bringing motivation and joy to each individual.

"We are grateful for the support Street Soccer NI provides to our clients and to be a part of their Homeless World Cup journey.”