Russia win Homeless World Cup
The week-long Homeless World Cup drew to a close on 30 September 2006 with an unlikely final between 12th-seeded Russia and debutants Kazakhstan in front of an almost capacity crowd at Cape Town's Grand Parade.
These two teams had met earlier in the tournament, with Russia emerging with a narrow 2-1 win, and both the outcome and the tight nature of the game were replicated on this occasion. The first half was goalless, thanks largely to a solid Russian defence that made it almost impossible for Kazakhstan to find scoring opportunities, and the solitary goal came late in the second half, leaving Russia to celebrate a hard-fought victory.
Their captain, Shelaevskiy Viatcheslav, said at the post-tournament press conference: "One of my strongest dreams has been realised. Kazakhstan are our good neighbours and good friends. I will never forget these days. Our main goal when we get home is the creation of a street soccer league. Football helped save me. I've made friends and, if anything happens to me, I now have friends to help me."
Viatcheslav's defeated Kazakhstan counterpart, Kalikov Yergali, was equally positive about the experience. "I am very glad to have participated in this championship, especially in Africa," he said. "The venue for the Homeless World Cup gives us huge satisfaction. We are very impressed with the city of Cape Town. Russia are our brothers. Many thanks to sport that unites classes and people."
Russia had shown exceptional form throughout the tournament, advancing undefeated to the final by scoring 57 goals - including 10 against Estonia - and conceding just nine.
Kazakhstan, meanwhile, were definitely the surprise package of the tournament. They had a slight hiccough on the first day, losing 3-0 to Serbia, but quickly regained their composure to emerge with decisive wins over Brazil and the Netherlands. Despite losing out in the final, Kazakhstan walked away with a thoroughly deserved Best Newcomer award.
Archbishop Tutu and Eusebio play their part
The teams were treated to many surprises during this, the fourth annual Homeless World Cup.
For example, Portuguese football legend Eusebio spent time with the players, giving them tips and training advice. Nobel Peace Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu also paid a visit, impressing the crowd with football skills that led to lighthearted comparisons to Ronaldinho.
Archbishop Tutu also took the opportunity to announce that South Africa would start their own homeless football league and use the pitches used during the competition as a legacy project from the tournament. He also stated emphatically that: "All over the world, we've got to end homelessness. In order to overcome this discrimination, we have to unite against homelessness as we did when we fought apartheid."
In addition to offering homeless football players from around the world the opportunity to showcase their football talent, the tournament has positive social development attached to it. According to the Homeless World Cup Impact report from the previous tournament in Edinburgh, 94 per cent of players have a new motivation for life and 12 participants now make their living partly as football coaches or players with professional and semi-professional teams.
Other awards include:
Best Fair Play Team - Slovakia
Best Mixed Team - Paraguay
Best Female Player - Lindsay Cooper, Scotland
Best Male Player - Ronald Siame, Zambia
Best Goalkeeper - Elliott Clow, Canada
The next Homeless World Cup will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark.