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FIFPRO will be presenting daily Fair Play Awards for teams showing outstanding sportsmanship at this year’s Homeless World Cup, which kicks off this Saturday in Cardiff, Wales.

“The Fair Play Award is the essence of what we work for,” Lene Knudtzen told FIFPRO. She is the Project Manager of Ombold, the organisation that runs street football in Denmark. At the 2018 Homeless World Cup in Mexico City, the Danish men’s team won the Fair Play Award.

“Some of the players said that this award was even bigger to them than winning the Homeless World Cup,” Knudtzen remembered.

Her team consisted of players who were homeless or refugees, or dealt with drug abuse or mental health problems. “They were not used to being seen as someone who could be recognized for fair play. People would always think bad things about them. Therefore it was such a big deal for them that they were recognized for being a good friend and playing fair. They were very proud.”

Lene Knudtzen 240“For us as an organization it was also huge, because that is what we work for. Of course we want to win games, but it is more important how the players behave and experience the event.”

Ombold is one of 74 national organisations associated with the Homeless World Cup supporting homeless and disadvantaged people.

Ombold organises various activities for approximately 1,200 people in Denmark including training sessions, tournaments and leagues. “It is free, you can come and play football, whether you are from the street or feel isolated at home. We have trained coaches who are very good at including everyone.”

The organisation’s main goal is to make the homeless or disadvantaged people part of the sports community. “Most of our players are not used to being in healthy relationships with other people”, Knudtzen said.

“Their communities are about crimes and drugs and other difficult stuff. We offer them sports communities.”

2018 Denmark 2 240According to a 2012 research involving 55 homeless men in Copenhagen, playing street football significantly increases players fitness. They had more muscle, reduced cholesterol and fat mass, improved balance and less risk of falls and fractures.

Knudtzen also noticed that players have improved relationships, and set goals for themselves. “But it is not a goal to get them clean or a home. They already have a lot of stress in their lives and we want to take that stress away. If they want to play football, they can come. If they want to interact more, tell their stories or need help, then we are here to listen. But it is not a goal. It is a wish.”

Knudtzen is still in touch with some players of last year’s team. “Some of them are still part of the program, others have jobs and phone or write us. They are still playing, because here they feel safe and relaxed, away from the stress of work.”

“We are one of those football clubs who wants to lose players, but we never say that they cannot come anymore. They are more than welcome.”

2018 Denmark 640

 The Danish team winning the Fair Play Award in 2018


More information:

FIFPRO at the Homeless World Cup

The Homeless World Cup explained

 

(Photos Homeless World Cup)