< back to the Golf Blog

Homeless World Cup 2015 Amsterdam

The Homeless World Cup NI is a project of Street Soccer NI which uses the power of football to inspire people who are homeless to change their lives. We provide structure, opportunities, and hope to some of our communities most marginalised people.  In doing so we are creating role models and improving communities. 

The project involves a partnership with Street Soccer NI, East Belfast Mission, and the IFA. 


(Team photo following a victory over France to see NI qualify to the top stages of HWC for the first time)


Team NI was selected in April following several days of trials. The final 8 have participated in a 6 month programme culminating in the 10 day tournament in Amsterdam from the 10th to the 20th of September.  

The project also involved a previous player who is now a volunteer coach.  

All 8 players are homeless or have been homeless in the recent past. 6 players and the volunteer coach are living in Belfast City. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s most recent data indicates just over 5,000 people presenting as homeless in a year in Belfast. 

3 players are from a NI Catholic background, 3 from a Protestant background, and two Polish men. 

Issues faced by players (and tackled by the project) include: homelessness, addictions, criminal behaviour, mental health issues, physical health problems, lack of activity, lack of hope/goals/motivation, and exclusion from education/training/employment. 

The programme involves regular football training (twice per week), and support around; housing, employability, addictions, personal finances, motivation, and more.

There were two residential and two international friendlies (Scotland and the republic of Ireland) in the preparation for the tournament.  


(Richard McKay wins fair play award)


The outcomes for last year’s team include: all 8 players were housed and remain in their home, 2 players completed an employability programme and acquired full time work, 4 players gained qualifications in coaching/refereeing from IFA, 2 became volunteers, 1 player signed for Bangor FC (semi-professional). All players reported an increase in confidence, motivation, and had new goals and plans for the future. All players had increased health and fitness. 0 players have been involved in criminal activity. 

This year’s project is on-going and its full impact (similar to previous years) will not be apparent for several months. Outcomes to date include:

  • All 8 players are linked in with housing professionals and are being supported to gain their own home. 
  • All 8 players have participated in employability support. 1 player has acquired employment. We expect at least two more players to gain employment with continued support.
  • All 8 players are highly motivated and have plans for the future; this includes acquiring full time work, a home, travelling, etc. 
  • All 8 players have improved health and fitness and will continue to engage in football. 
  • 3 players are engaged in volunteering. This includes our volunteer coach who is now ready to commence a mentoring programme with BCDSN in coaching. 
  • 2 players completed IFA coaching badges. 
  • 0 players have been involved in criminal activity.
  • All players have received a support around personal finance, addictions, mental health, motivation and more. 
  • All 8 players are now part of our regular football programmes; this provides friendship and support for people who may otherwise become isolated. 


(Team NI with the South African Team at the Ajax stadium)


(Friendly against Scotland in Edinburgh)

Players’ and staff words and more details

The team had 8 players listed to go and at the last minute one of the main players had to pull out.  During the first match, another player was injured and couldn’t play into the next round but still, the team went on to beat Finland and France and get past the group stages.  

Next year’s Homeless World Cup is in Calcutta. 

Aidan Byrne, coaching staff, said “the excitement of the team just cannot be put into words.  In the months leading up to the Homeless World Cup they trained hard, visited other countries for friendly matches and met other teams and players with whom they created friendships and shared stories with.  The atmosphere in Amsterdam was electric and the meeting of other teams and the festival type environment is one they say they will never forget.  We have to remember that these players have gained so much motivation and self- worth and have now got their own personal goals going forward.  They have experienced a lifestyle they want to achieve for themselves and are highly motivated to find work and get their lives into shape in many other ways.  This is why we say it is about more than the winning.  Its about inspiring people to make lasting changes in their lives”.

Justin McMinn team manager said; ‘Many of our players have faced massive difficulties from a very young age. They have not had the opportunities most of us take for granted. Street Soccer is working to tackle this, to give people another chance, and to inspire people’. 

Player Sevy Folman said; ‘Its been the best 10 days of my life! I want to stay part of Street Soccer and become a coach but I also want to get full time work as soon as possible. I want to travel again and to see the world. There are so many things I want to do’. 

Richard McKay: ‘The experience has left me with many great memories, experiences and lifelong friends. I have a football family who all want me to succeed at everything I do. I can now use the energy and inspiration I gathered in Holland to see clearly a direction that I will be happy with in my life with the opportunities opened up to me through coaching, mentoring and the outlook I now have on life’. 

James Shaw: 'The trip was fantastic, best experience of my life; it's motivated me to get a job and a house. Seeing all the other cultures has opened my eyes to homelessness in other countries and I realise how many opportunities I really have.'

Gerard Toner: ‘I’ve had a very difficult year and I was in a very bad place, the Homeless World Cup experience has given me a new lease of life. I’m now playing football regularly and I want to find work as soon as I can and to get my coaching badges’. 

Darren Spiers: ‘It was the experience of a lifetime. I am really motivated now to be rehoused and to be working for the New Year’.