Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Team Japan participating in Homeless World Cup is not "homeless"
SUZUKI Naofumi /  Ph.D.,Executive Director, Diversity Soccer Association; Professor, Hitotsubashi University, Graduate School of Social Sciences

May 23, 2024
There is an international football tournament called the Homeless World Cup (HWC). As the name suggests, participants are limited to those who have recently experienced homelessness. Competing under its special 4-a-side “street football" rules, the number of players allowed on each squad is only eight. A player may only participate once in these tournaments, which aim to create a "world without homelessness". This is because the purpose of the competition is to help people permanently get out of homelessness through participation.

HWC was founded in 2003 by M. Young, co-founder of The Big Issue Scotland, a street paper to help the living of those who suffer from homelessness, and H. Schmied, editor-in-chief of Megaphone, an Austrian street paper. It has been held every year since then (except for the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic), somewhere in the world.

We, the Diversity Soccer Association, aim to send another Japanese team to the tournament this year. Previously, The Big Issue Japan has sponsored Team Japan in three tournaments: Gothenburg 2004, Milan 2009, Paris 2011. If we are successful in fielding a team, it will mark the end of a 13-year hiatus.

The long hiatus was mainly due to the difficulty in assembling a team every year. In Japan, the term "homeless" often refers to people living on the streets. Past Japanese teams were comprised of players meeting that definition. However, most people living on the streets in Japan are relatively old, and not many of them have played football so much when they were younger. Selecting eight players every year was practically impossible.

Looking around the world, Team Mexico, which is always the top favorite for both men's and women's championships, is selected from domestic leagues with tens of thousands of participants. Of course, not all of them are living on the streets; impoverished individuals living in inadequate housing conditions are also considered "homeless." The teams from European countries and Australia also include individuals living in temporary shelters or hostels, those in recovery from substance abuse, as well as immigrants and refugees. In other words, "homelessness" does not refer to only the state of living on the streets, but could include any state where "housing is unstable".

Therefore, since 2015, in collaboration with the Big Issue Foundation, we have been organizing domestic tournaments targeting a broad range of individuals who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing social exclusion. Through these tournaments, we have been nurturing a domestic Diversity Soccer community. In the fiscal year 2023, we held the Diversity League, a futsal event with 3 to 4 teams, eleven times across three regions (Tohoku, Kanto, and Kansai), as well as the annual Diversity Soccer Festival. These events provided opportunities for over 500 participants to interact through soccer and futsal. While individuals falling under the broad definition of "homelessness" may still be a minority, we are gradually moving closer to a state where we can consistently send Team Japan to the HWC.

Fostering networks of organizations participating in domestic events, and growing the community of people coping with diverse difficulties, along with their supporters, helps to provide a "place to return to" for HWC participants. The past three occasions of sending Team Japan have taught us the importance of continuing to engage with the players returning from world championships through football, and support them to ensure they do not fall back into “homelessness.” That way, we can expect them to serve as a role model and inspire the domestic communities with their experience at the world championships as well.

Why do people at risk of poverty play football? It is because no matter the circumstances, being able to freely enjoy "what you love" is a matter of human dignity. Why do they need to compete in world championships as representatives of Japan? This is because it sends a strong message to change the narrow perception of “homelessness” and create a society where the dignity of more people is recognized.

The members of Team Japan participating in the Homeless World Cup are not “homeless.” They are able to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime tournament, because the Diversity Soccer community provides a “home”, and society as a whole is tolerant enough to make it happen. I look forward to such a future.

SUZUKI Naomi is Executive Director, Diversity Soccer Association.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

鈴木 直文 / NPO法人ダイバーシティサッカー協会・代表理事 一橋大学大学院社会学研究科総合社会科学専攻・教授

2024年 5月 23日
ホームレスワールドカップ(Homeless World Cup: HWC)という世界大会がある。その名の通り、参加者は「ホームレス」を経験した人に限られる。特殊な4人制の”ストリートサッカー”ルールで行われ、一チームは8人で構成される。「ホームレスの存在しない世界」を目指す同大会は、一生に一度しか出場できない。出場をきっかけにホームレス状態を脱してもらうことが目的だからだ。2003年、ホームレス自立支援のストリートペーパー『ビッグイシュー』スコットランド版の共同創設者M・ヤングと、オーストリア『メガホン』編集長H・シュミッドが創設し、以後毎年(新型コロナウイルスによる中断を除き)、世界のどこかで開催されている。








一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Team Japan participating in Homeless World Cup is not "homeless"