Football needs to do more to celebrate the significant contribution it makes to the lives of people in communities across the world rather than dwell on the negatives surrounding the game. That is the message from Mel Young MBE, Chair of sportscotland and President of the Homeless World Cup.
Mel, who earlier this month addressed a FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion in Zurich, cites the Homeless World Cup as just one of the many examples of the positive power of sport. And he believes it is time that more people started recognising the often life changing role that sport is playing around the globe.
It was back in 2001 when Mel co-founded the Homeless World Cup with Harald Schmied, with its first event being held in 2003. Since then the Homeless World Cup has touched the lives of 1.2 million homeless people, helping many people rejoin society. Sport and football changes lives and that was Mel’s message as he addressed football’s most influential people at the FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion.
He said: “Sport has real power at grassroots level. There are thousands of examples around the world where sporting initiatives have created real and lasting change. For example, the Homeless World Cup, which uses football to target the poorest of the poor across the globe, has made, and continues to make, a real difference.
“It is a proven example of something that really works and does so despite not having huge resources at its disposal. It shows you how football can make a very real and positive contribution to many people and that was what I was trying to get across when I was speaking at the conference.
“Football mirrors what is happening in the world. So what is happening in the world today is the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and that is the same in football. So you have huge money at the top of the game and that often what you hear about, which is unfortunate.
“It is important to remember that the football world is doing well in many ways. In fact it is doing better than many other sectors of society, when it comes to addressing some of the issues faced by people in communities across the world. Despite the criticism often aimed at football it does an awful lot of good.
“If you take the car industry or the pharmaceutical industry and compare it with football then football is way ahead in terms of what it does in the community. Yet a lot of the time football is held up as being a bad example. We need to get beyond that and I think examples like the Homeless World Cup can help us do that.”
It is a powerful message and one which Mr Young made when he joined a high-profile panel of speakers at the FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion. And while the focus is often centred on the top level Mel wants to see more recognition given to the unsung heroes who drive football and sport at a grassroots level.
He said: “Sport is more than just about winning medals. When you look at those at the highest level in football or in other sports – they have only got to where they are because of coaches and volunteers who have helped them progress. That is something which often gets forgotten but again is something that we should celebrate.
“And that is where sportscotland has the correct approach. There is that one system that is running from grassroots all the way through to performance sport. It is creating a genuine pathway for everyone involved in sport and that is something we need to build on in the months and years ahead.”
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