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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July, 2005, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
HWC: Q&A with Mel Young
Adam Hassan and James Clarke interview Mel Young
The Homeless World Cup kicked off in Edinburgh on 18 July - and you'll be able to catch all the latest action from the tournament right here.

Four graduates from the BBC Tackling Skills project will be reporting on all the games throughout the week-long tournament, which will see 32 countries and over 250 people taking part.

Here, co-founder of the event Mel Young answers questions from Adam Hassan.


Do you feel this tournament has changed the public's perspective on homeless people?

I do, I think it just changes everybody. The homeless people involved change because they find inspiration, self-respect and self-esteem from the crowd applauding them. The public also change as they usually have a stereotypical view of what a homeless person is e.g. lives on the street, is dangerous etc.

How did you manage to gather twenty-seven countries to participate in this year's HWC?

With a lot of difficulty (laughs). It's been a big logistical challenge. It is based on the INSP network we have. They will organise their teams to come for their country, and once they arrive here we pay for their expenses (accommodation, food). We also provide a bursary for the less fortunate countries e.g. Namibia, Brazil where we pay for their flights and give support in obtaining their visas.

Will you be going out to South Africa for next year's World Cup?

Yes I will as we're part of the essential organising of the whole cup. We will be working with the South Africa organisers here and I'll be going over in September to start talking [about] how we're going to structure the event. I think South Africa is going to be brilliant with even more coming to watch. This will be a new challenge for us.

Did you have any influence over Edinburgh getting this year's HWC?

It was supposed to take place in New York and they raised a lot of money for it. However, there was a big problem with visas. They not only refused the African countries but also many of the European ones. We then had the option of either cancelling the whole event altogether or finding an alternative venue quickly. I thought it was better to have the HWC somewhere rather than nowhere. I came up with Edinburgh because I live here, I know my way around and it's an events' city. So as an emergency I took six months of my life to organise it in Edinburgh.

What do you think are the benefits of uniting homeless people?

I think it's fantastic because what we've got is an understanding between all participants and they can connect on this level with people from all around the world. They also get to know other people with many friendships that have built up here. For example, last year the Namibians are very close with the Switzerland team and they have kept in touch with each other. The whole Swiss' perspective changed when they learned of the Namibians' situation back home and they realised they are not the worst off.

When you came up with the concept of the HWC? What were your expectations and were these met in any way?

When we came up with the idea in Austria our expectations were exceeded from day one. We never actually imagined we would stage more than one HWC. We never expected the significant change in the players' lives. That was phenomenal. The media were all over the event. I guess the greatest achievement for me is the positive impact we've had in the players' futures.

How do you feel to be involved in one the world's most socially inclusive event?

It's just fantastic. It's not just me and I'm one of the co-founders with Harold. There's a fantastic team around us. We determine to do even more but I'm just very proud to be associated with such an event. If this just makes one less person not homeless, I'm very pleased.

Do you feel a certain passion for supporting underprivileged/homeless people?

I always have been someone who's quite political. One of the things I hate is unfairness in the world. So when I was at University I got involved on the anti-apartheid movement. I just couldn't believe people were treated second-class just because they were black. My thinking was really influenced by Nelson Mandela. I was watching this country (Scotland) falling to bits. There were people lying in the streets, high unemployment etc. But what motivated me was seeing the Big Issue in London, which encouraged me to start this campaign in Scotland. Going through this changed me personally and Ive met fantastic people, mainly from the homeless community.

What do you think the solution to homelessness is?

I think it differs from country to country, but I think one of the biggest things wrong in the world is the economic system; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There is a divide that has been created. We have to make a fair system e.g. fair trade. I think that can really help, along with projects like this going on (HWC). You need to involve and consult homeless people themselves.





Links to more Tackling Skills stories


 

SEE ALSO
Players gear up for Homeless World Cup
04 Jul 05 |  Tackling Skills


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