THE HOMELESS World Cup was founded in Scotland and it has changed lives around the globe. But now its emotional highs and lows – that see formerly homeless men and women trained up to play for their home countries in an annual international tournament – is to be the subject of a big budget movie.

The project by Blueprint Pictures, will involve actor Colin Farrell, currently an ambassador along with actor Michael Sheen for the unique tournament. Credits for the production company include box-office hits such as the Best Exotic Marigold Motel – about OAPs seeking a new life in India featuring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith – and Becoming Jane, a biopic about Jane Austen starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy.

Scottish entrepreneur and Homeless World Cup Founder Mel Young, who this week will publish a new book, Home Game, on the football competition along with co-author Peter Barr, said that while plans were at an early stage he was excited about taking the story to an even wider audience.

In 2001 Young, who co-founded the Big Issue in Scotland in the early 90s, and Austrian colleague called Harald Schmidt had the idea for the Homeless World Cup over a drink at the end of an International Network of Street Papers conference. The first tournament kicked off in Graz, Austria 18 months later.

Research showed 80 per cent of the players involved had went to find jobs and homes, gone into further education, or become football coaches.

Young, who set up the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), said he hoped the compelling story would inspire everyone to take whatever action they could to end homelessness.

He added: "The movie is going to be fiction based on fact. It will be an A-list Hollywood type production and its going to be fabulous. Ask anybody anywhere - rich or poor, old or young – if they think homelessness can ever be a good thing," he added. "I ask this question all the time and no-one has ever said 'yes'. So, why do we allow it to continue?

"Human beings are ingenious – we can send people to the moon, wipe out killer diseases, invent the internet and speak to anyone around the world whenever we want. But if we are so clever, why do we have homelessness? I believe we can end it."

Peter Barr, Homeless World Cup trustee and co-author of Home Game, added: "I'm sure when the film comes out that it will provide huge momentum. Colin Farrell has been a fantastic ambassador of the Homeless World Cup and he's so great with the players. The impact of someone like him or [fellow ambassador] Michael Sheen is really significant."

How the Homeless World Cup changed lives around the world


Lisa Wrightsman first got involved in the Homeless World Cup as part of the women's USA team two years ago, in Rio de Janeiro. As one of the stars of the tournament, it might seem unsurprising that the very next year she returned, this time to Paris, as one of the team's coaches but her journey had been a long one. At age 12, Lisa won her battle with cancer, at 18 she gained a scholarship to Sacramento State University where she became a college soccer star and then turned semi-pro. But by 2009, her life – and addiction to drugs – was spiralling out of control. She spent time in jail and ended up homeless.

Finally she made it to rehab and in 2010 played for Sacramento at the Street Soccer USA National Cup as the only woman in the team. She went on to be selected for the women’s team at that year’s Homeless World Cup in Brazil. "Brazil was an incredible moment," she said. "I really felt empowered, and felt that I had something I could offer other people." Today she is running a programme for excluded women in Sacramento, California using soccer to help them to transform their lives.

South Africa

Lukes Mjoka, 25, from Cape Town, South Africa, was just four years old, when his mother ‘dumped’ him with his grandmother. When he was six, Lukes worked in his grandmother’s shop and a year later ran away and ended up sleeping rough in the streets. He was soon addicted to sniffing glue and involved in petty crime. As an adult he sold time crystal meth and the cycle of crime and violence continued.

But in 2009 he met a childhood friend who had played in the Homeless World Cup in Milan who persuaded Lukes to go to the trials for the next Homeless World Cup in Rio the following year. He was accepted and did not look back, eventually quitting drugs and being selected as team captain.

His experience as a player was incredible. "I learned that everything is possible," he said. "It’s up to individuals to change their own lives. You can’t go around blaming others, and you have to stay away from negativity." Now he is coaching in schools in Sao Paulo while working as a chef. He added: "I’m living my dream."


In 2004 David Duke, CEO of Street Soccer Scotland, realised alcohol was taking over his life. He lost his job and home in Glasgow when he fell behind with his rent and found himself binge drinking for weeks "to forget and escape". Before long he was sleeping rough on the street. He spend the next year in a hostel for the homeless, full of addicts and former offenders. "It was horrific," he said. After going to sessions to address his addiction, he managed to give up alcohol, and one day saw a poster on a notice board about a soccer Challenge Cup for homeless people organised by The Big Issue in Scotland, to select a team to represent Scotland at the next Homeless World Cup in Sweden. He was picked for the team and a new life opened up in front of him. "I had a new purpose.’ After the high of the international games he struggled to remain focused, but returned to college, and started coaching young people before returning to the Homeless World Cup as a coach with former Scotland player Ally Dawson. In 2009, he founded Street Soccer Scotland, which has worked with hundreds of players all-year-round.