Gearing up for Cardiff with hope and a ball

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80 vying for places on Indian men and women’s teams for Homeless World Cup

The distance from a slum in Mumbai to Cardiff in Wales could be just 22 metres, as 80 hopefuls take part in trials to select Indian teams for the 17th edition of the Homeless World Cup.

The tournament kicks off in the Welsh capital on July 27. This version of football is played by two four-member teams on a field that is just 22 metres long and 16 metres wide.

The probables were chosen from the national-level tournament held in Mumbai last month. Eight men and as many women will be chosen to fly to Wales for the tournament.

Since 2006, India has been fielding teams at the Homeless World Cup, which began in 2003, thanks to the efforts of the Nagpur-based NGO Slum Soccer. “We missed only one World Cup all these years,” Slum Soccer’s CEO Abhijeet Barse told The Hindu, speaking on the phone. “We started sending Indian teams to the Homeless World Cup after we were invited by Mel Young, one of the founders of the movement.”

The movement, which is spread over 70 countries, uses football as an inspiration for homeless people to change their lives. Of course, there are no prizes for guessing the most-crowned winners in this form of the game, too — Brazil.

Six from Kerala

Six Kerala players are on the list of probables — all from the coastal village of Chellanam near Kochi. They were brought together by the Bengaluru-based NGO Fourth Foundation.

“Earlier, I simply dreamt of graduating and doing some job but now I want to pursue football as a profession,” said Jeffin Joseph, one of the short-listed players. “I want to prove wrong all those who kept saying that football will not give me a future,” Mr. Joseph said, echoing the spirit of the Homeless World Cup.

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