'Football Can Transform Lives': Michael Sheen Hails Homeless World Cup Coming To Wales

Actor and activist to play key role in tournament in Cardiff this summer.
PA Entertainment

Hollywood star Michael Sheen has hailed how football can “transform lives” ahead of the Homeless World Cup coming to Cardiff this summer.

Against a backdrop of rough sleeping on the rise across the UK, the actor and activist is taking a hands-on role when the tournament arrives in his home country on July 27.

More than 500 players from at least 50 countries are expected to take part, and Sheen said bringing the Homeless World Cup to Wales is “a real dream come true for me”.

“All round the world I’ve seen how football can play a massive part in helping people transform their lives, bring some joy and hope when things seem at their worst or just help to get you through a day,” the Frost-Nixon star said.

“This summer Cardiff will host a celebration of what can bring us all together.”

The week-long festival of football was created to harness the power of sport in transforming the lives of people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion.

To date, more than one million people have had their lives positively impacted by the tournament and its programmes since the first tournament in Graz, Austria in 2003.

Tournament organisers in Wales are working to create a legacy which has a real impact on people’s lives, and Sheen said Cardiff 2019 “gives us a huge opportunity”.

He said it was a “unique platform to engage people in the issues surrounding homelessness, issues that affect us all - housing, health, particularly mental health, criminal justice and inequality, just to name a few - and to launch initiatives and projects from that platform that can make an actual difference in the lives of those who need it most”.

Sheen continued: “I want the Cardiff 2019 Homeless World Cup to be about creating a legacy of change informed by those on the frontlines of these issues and delivered by an entire nation together in a spirit of compassion and co-operation, qualities that we have long held dear and that have proudly defined us as a people.”

Alongside the football, the Green Man Festival will host live music, family friendly entertainment, walkabout theatre, art installations and debate.

A line up of big names and rising talent from the Welsh music scene, curated by Sheen, will also be announced in coming weeks.

Green Man’s famous Little Folk will provide workshops, adventures and activities for children 12 and under, and there will be a debate tent hosted in collaboration with the independent think tank, The Bevan Foundation.

The tournament has separate competitions for men’s-mixed teams and women’s teams, with Mexico defending both titles.

Match action during the game between Hungary and England in the 2015 Homeless World Cup.
Match action during the game between Hungary and England in the 2015 Homeless World Cup.

Working with Cymorth Cymru, the umbrella body for Wales’ homelessness sector, organisers are developing a series of appeals to government, business and the public.

Employment and volunteering opportunities for people experiencing homelessness or social exclusion will also be available.

Cymorth Cymru director Katie Dalton said: Everyone should have a right to a home, but the constant pressure of high housing costs and poverty means that far too many people are pushed into homelessness.

“We’re really pleased to be working with Michael to ensure that the Homeless World Cup has a lasting impact on people’s lives.

“This tournament creates incredible opportunities for the players, but it also provides a platform for government, businesses and communities to really step up and play their part in ending homelessness.”

Mel Young, co-founder of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, said: “We are truly excited to bring the Homeless World Cup to Cardiff. We were very impressed by the bid and their commitment to delivering a long-lasting legacy across Wales.

“Every year we travel to a different nation to deliver this wonderful event, and we are sure that Cardiff 2019 will be inspiring and life-changing for the players and the public attending.”