The Philippine Homeless World Cup may miss out on this year’s tournament. A lack of sponsors means they may well be forced to skip this year’s event in Mexico City and go to the 2013 tournament instead.
In an episode of For the Win, director of the Philippine Homeless World Cup Team, coach Rudy Del Rosario, told the show that the Philippine team is in trouble as they look to participate in the street football tournament later this year.
If Rudy’s name sounds familiar that’s because Del Rosario used to play for the Philippine National team and was part of the squad that shocked Malaysia back in 1991 with a 1-0 victory. Fast-forward twenty years and he’s scouting the country for the best local football talents – players who happened to live on the streets.
The Homeless World Cup
The tournament started over beers between the Scottish social entrepreneur Mel Young and Austrian Harald Schmied. Working with the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) the tournament started in 2004 as eighteen countries participated. The Philippines joined in 2008 with most of the players came from the Tuloy sa Don Bosco and Nayon ng Kabataan foundations. They finished thirty-seventh out of fifty-six teams.
The Homeless World Cup uses the street football format where teams are made of four players, a goalkeeper and three outfield players, and the small pitch – 18x22m – is surrounded by a wall which can be used by players. Games are fifteen minutes long but the small pitch makes the games very intense and scores often reach double figures.
As for eligibility, players who have already played cannot join the next year as the purpose is to give them a once in a lifetime opportunity and experience, as they then get scholarships and apprenticeships to find permanent work and find a new life off the streets.
In 2009 the Philippine side improved their ranking to twenty-ninth out of forty-eight teams. A year later in Rio De Janeiro, the Philippine side won the Host Cup, which meant they were the best team in the bottom half of the tournament.
Winning the Host Cup
Given a tough group with eventual winners and runners-up Brazil and Chile, as well as Italy, the Philippines were knocked out of the top half and into the second half of the sides. However that was the last time they lost as they won the next group stage with victories over South Korea, Sweden, Argentina and Norway. The team then defeated Germany in the quarterfinals and Finland in the semifinals. A 6-2 victory saw them reach the final of the bottom half, where they went up against groupmates Norway.
Rudy’s face still showed the emotion of the moment as he relayed the story of how the Philippine took a 3-1 lead but then faced a nervous last five minutes as Norway brought the game level at 3-3. With two minutes to go, the Philippines took the lead again and held on for the win.
Coach Del Rosario describes the game as “the longest fifteen minutes of my life” but beams with pride as he sits next to now the captain of the Rio side, Mark Maravilla. Maravilla has now taken over as Head Coach of the Homeless World Cup as they look to build up the next set of players to represent the Philippines from the previous group – paying it forward.
P1.5 million to reach Mexico City
Rudy told FTW that the latest incarnation of the team would need roughly P1.5 million to reach Mexico City to participate in this year’s Homeless World Cup. The year before, Global FC and Azkals manager Dan Palami stepped in to save the day, but this time around things are proving more difficult. In return for sponsorship, however, the Homeless World Cup does offer marketing opportunities and Rudy gave his email during the FTW episode for potential sponsors to get in contact.
One saving grace for the team may well be that the best finish for any Asian side was Indonesia, which placed sixth in 2010. Their team couldn’t finance the trip in 2009 so the team skipped that year and it gave their players another year to train together. All their players were also HIV positive, which gave a new angle to the story as they finished the best of any Asian side. The worst case scenario for Philippine team, then, could see the side skip a year and while it would give the team though it would mean eight other players couldn’t experience that once in a lifetime opportunity.
This leaves the Homeless World Cup team with a short time to reach their target, with the tournament to be held later this year. Time is running out, but the team is hopeful that there will be a last minute Samaritan to save the team and generate some brand opportunities in the process.