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The Power of Football: Liverpool Homeless F.C

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Imagine waking up in a strange place every single day. When people imagine what homelessness looks like they picture an individual rough sleeping. The truth is, it could be a hostel, sofa surfing, a car, a park, an abandoned building, or maybe even a commercial bin. The daily struggle of gathering your life’s possessions and figuring out where your next meal is going to come from will eventually take its toll. This is the predicament that thousands of people across the UK face every day.

Through social media and various news reports more and more people are starting to notice the rising levels of homelessness, Rough sleepers are the visible face of homelessness, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. New figures show that there are more than 300,000 people officially recorded as homeless and one in three families are a month’s pay from losing their home.

The scale of the homelessness crisis is reaching epidemic levels and the problem now effects areas of society that go far beyond what people might imagine. There are many reasons including, but not limited to family breakdown, alcohol and substance abuse, relationship abuse, war and persecution and leaving care.

Since 2007, Liverpool Homeless FC have developed a unique and dynamic approach to making positive change on the lives of the regions homeless. LHFC is an FA Chartered Football Club which exists in affiliation with the Liverpool County FA and operates across the whole of Merseyside. The clubs Patron is former Premier League Referee – Chris Foy.

Liverpool Homeless FC was started by a group of like minded housing providers who felt that they could use football as a way of breaking the homelessness cycle and enhance the lives of some of Merseyside’s most vulnerable people.

One of the companies who was involved at its inception was New Start, a not for profit supported housing company based in Liverpool. New Start Director of Housing Ste Baynes has seen first-hand the opportunities that projects like this can offer. For many residents of such housing companies the opportunity to get active and be part of a team can provide the confidence and self-belief that they have been searching for.

Currently the LHFC league is made up of 18 homelessness organisations that operate across Merseyside, many of them hostels. Monthly ‘Match Days’ are held at the Powerleague Centre in Kirkdale, North Liverpool. Match Days are environments where players can express themselves and has seen players excel and even represent England at various Homeless World Cups around the world.

Once homeless and now England and Reading Ladies footballer Fara Williams has recently opened up about her struggles with homelessness and social exclusion. England’s most capped footballer overcame homelessness and forged a successful career in professional football. The former Chelsea, Charlton, Everton, Liverpool, and Arsenal midfielder was homeless for seven years, playing for England while moving into various hostels around London. Fara attributes football as her main reason for over coming homelessness and the focus and belief that she was good at something allowed her to succeed in her career and life.

While players dream of a chance to represent England and play for a professional club, Liverpool Homeless FC is about much more than that –  inspiring societies socially excluded to feel accepted and become involved. By building issues such as homelessness, social integration, and employability into their football programme LHFC have had the ability to affect the lives of many people across Merseyside.

There are many football projects like Liverpool Homeless FC across the country which continue to have successful outcomes. None of this would be possible without the generosity and compassion of thousands of individuals, organisations, and companies, who give their time, funds, and goods to give an opportunity for some of society’s most vulnerable people. Since establishing the league, LHFC have broken many myths and stereotypes that surround the homeless and have successfully helped many players to access training & education opportunities as well as seeing them enter long term accommodation.

Scotlands homeless World Cup winning team

The success of LHFC is testament to all of the players and what they have achieved in spite of the barriers presented by homelessness and social exclusion.

If you are interested about LHFC’s work please visit: liverpoolhomelessfootballclub.com

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Euro 2020| Wembley to host 7 games including final, but Wales miss out

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UEFA confirmed yesterday that Wembley will host a further four games at the next European Championships in 2020, taking the total up to seven.

Set to be staged by multiple countries across Europe, UEFA have had to make changes to the tournament structure after the Belgium capital, Brussels, had to be ruled out after they were unable to provide the necessary guarantees on the completion date of a planned new stadium.

Wembley had already been scheduled to host four games, including a semi-final and the final, but will now also host three additional group games and a last-16 tie after UEFA called time on  Brussels’ prospective new stadium being ready in time for the tournament.

 

Speaking in Nyon, UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, said the decision of UEFA’s executive committee had been unanimous as waiting on Belgium was deemed “high risk”.

“We don’t know if they can build a stadium or not,” Ceferin added.

Wales miss out

Cardiff had also been in contention to pick up the Brussels baton, however UEFA decided to stick with England and Scotland as their British venues. The decision to overlook Cardiff’s Principality Stadium would have been bitterly disappointing for the Welsh, never have they been able to host a World Cup or Euros game and this was possibly their only chance in the foreseeable future.

A corespondent from The Football Association of Wales (FAW) said;

“The concept of taking UEFA Euro 2020 to 13 different countries was devised to allow smaller countries, like Wales, to have a unique opportunity of being involved in staging a major tournament,” the FAW said in a statement.

(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The twelve stadiums chosen to host games:

Amsterdam (Netherlands) Johan Cruyff Arena
Baku (Azerbaijan) Olympic Stadium
Bilbao (Spain) San Mames
Bucharest (Romania) Arena Nationala
Budapest (Hungary) Ferenc Puskas Stadium
Copenhagen (Denmark) Parken Stadium
Dublin (Republic of Ireland) Aviva Stadium
Glasgow (Scotland) Hampden Park
London (England) Wembley
Munich (Germany) Allianz Arena
Rome (Italy) Stadio Olimpico
St. Petersburg (Russia) Krestovsky Stadium

 

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Video | Neymar showered in fake €500 notes embossed with his crying face

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Bayern Munich fans have never been ones to shied away from criticism’s of UEFA and the heavy corporate influences within the game.  This week the worlds most expensive player was in town, and the supporters front line weren’t about to miss an opportunity to poke him with corporate stick, and they didn’t disappoint.

As the Brazilian striker made his way over to take a corner in the first half, Bayern supporters in the front row showered him in fake €500 notes complete with a custom image of Neymar’s face in tears.

Image: Fox Sports (via Yahoo)

Bayern fans also to aim at UEFA by unveiled a banners reading: “Throwing fake money is charged, but exploiting our football is fine?”

The banner was in response to UEFA’s recent charge of the Bundesliga champions after fans previously threw fake cash on the field in protest against the €100 ticket prices charged for the clash with Anderlecht in Belgium last month.

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England’s World Cup Opponents | What’s in store?

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Belgium, Tunisia and Panama: England’s World Cup Opponents Reviewed
With the World Cup draw having been made, England fans will be relatively happy with the group they have been given. The pot one heavyweights in the form of Argentina, Brazil, France and Germany were all avoided, whilst Tunisia are one of the weakest teams in pot three. World Cup debutants Panama are another side the majority of teams would have been happy to face. Here we review all three of England’s opponents ahead of football’s greatest showpiece kicking off in Russia next summer.

Belgium


Belgium will be by far the most familiar of England’s opponents. The majority of The Red Devils’ squad play or have played in England’s top flight with 21 of the 34 players to have appeared in Belgium squads since September having Premier League experience. In addition, Mats Sels played for Newcastle in the Championship last season whilst Thorgan Hazard was on Chelsea’s books despite not making a single appearance for them.


In terms of key players, Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is arguably the pick of the bunch with many regarding him the Premier League’s best player this season. Chelsea duo Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku and Tottenham defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will also be high-quality opposition for Kane, Alli and co. to test themselves against.
Outside the Premier League, PSG defender Thomas Meunier, Roma’s Radja Nainggolan and Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco are all big players, but arguably the most dangerous threat will come from Napoli’s Dries Mertens who has ten Serie A goals already this season.
In recent years, the so-called “golden generation” has not yet lived up to expectations. In 2014 they reached the World Cup, their first major tournament in 14 years. After one-goal victories against Algeria, Russia and South Korea in the group stages, they beat the USA 2-1 after extra time in the last 16. Their run was halted by Argentina in the quarter finals when an early Gonzalo Higuain goal gave the South American giants a 1-0 victory.


It was Euro 2016 however in which they really disappointed. Despite losing 2-0 to Italy in their opening group match, 3-0 and 1-0 wins over Republic of Ireland and Sweden respectively were enough to see them progress to the knockout rounds as group E runners-up. A 4-0 win over Hungary set up a quarter final match with Wales and when Radja Nainggolan’s long distance strike gave Marc Wilmots’ side an early lead, hopes were high of a semi-final clash with Portugal. But Wales came back to claim a shock 3-1 victory which knocked Belgium out.
Wilmots was sacked after this result and replaced with another name familiar to Premier League fans in the form of Roberto Martinez. The ex-Swansea, Wigan and Everton boss led Belgium to become the first European team to qualify for Russia 2018. Only a 1-1 draw with Greece denied them a 100% qualifying record in a campaign which saw 6-0 and 9-0 wins over Gibraltar and an 8-1 victory over Estonia. This helped secure their status (joint with Germany) as the highest-scoring team in the history of a single World Cup qualifying campaign with 43 goals.
Belgium are currently sixth-favourites to lift the trophy in July ahead of former winners England and Uruguay, and European Championship holders Portugal. England have played them 21 times picking up 15 victories and just a solitary defeat which came back in 1936.

Tunisia

©Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The other two teams in Group G will be a lot less familiar to England fans.
Tunisia are making their fifth appearance at the World Cup finals having failed to progress beyond the group stages in all four of their previous campaigns, most recently in 2006. They began their campaign in the second round of African qualifiers with a 4-2 aggregate victory over Mauritania before topping a group including Guinea, Libya and closest rivals Congo DR in the third round. A 0-0 draw at home to Libya in the final group game was enough to book their ticket to Russia despite Congo DR defeating Guinea 3-1.


The Premier League has seen five Tunisian players in its history. The first to arrive was defender Radhi Jaidi. Jaidi played for Esperance Sportive de Tunis, Tunisia’s most successful club before joining Bolton Wanderers in July 2004. He then went on to play for Birmingham before joining League One Southampton in 2009. The ex-national team captain is now coaching the Saints’ U23 team. He played at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and was a part of Tunisia’s African Cup of Nations-winning side in 2004. Birmingham signed Mehdi Nafti just a few months after Jaidi’s arrival in England.

Nafti now manages Merida in the Spanish third division. Hatem Trabelsi had a brief spell at Manchester City in the 2006/07 season before Yohan Benalouane signed for Leicester in 2015. The defender played in four games during Leicester’s title-winning 2015/16 season but missed out on a winners’ medal as a minimum of five appearances were required. Wahbi Khazri makes up the Premier Leagues’ Tunisian contingent having joined Sunderland in January 2016. His highlight in the North-East was a goal and assist in a 2-1 victory over Manchester United. He now plays on loan for Rennes in the French Ligue 1.

Tunisia’s biggest-name player at the moment is defender Aymen Abdennour who currently plays for Marseille on loan from Valencia. Abdennour was once a reported Chelsea target and Watford were said to be interested in signing him this summer before he returned to France where he had previously played with Toulouse and Monaco. Another key player is captain Aymen Mathlouthi. The goalkeeper has spent his entire career in Tunisia. He has spent fourteen years at Etoile du Sahel and won the CAF Champions League in 2007. Mathlouthi is known as a ball-playing goalkeeper and lifted the African Nations Championship (not to be confused with the African Cup of Nations) in 2011. Other names that may be familiar to avid fans of European football are Ligue 1 trio Oussama Haddadi, Naim Sliti (both Dijon) and Nice youngster Bassem Srarfi. Doncaster Rovers fans will be familiar with midfielder Issam Ben Khemis, although with just one cap to his name (in October 2016), he looks likely to miss out on a trip to Russia.
Nabil Maaloul is the Tunisia head coach. He played in Europe briefly for German side Hannover and is currently in his fifth spell as either Tunisia manager or assistant manager (including managing the Olympic side in 2004). He had a three-year spell as Kuwait boss before returning to the Carthage Eagles in April 2017, just in time to mastermind his nation’s progression to the World Cup finals.
In two appearances against Tunisia, England are unbeaten. They drew 1-1 in a 1990 friendly before winning 2-0 in the 1998 World Cup group stages.

Panama


If England fans are unfamiliar with Tunisia, then Panama are even more of an unknown quantity. The Central American side began their campaign in the fourth round of qualifiers for teams in CONCACAF, the equivalent of UEFA for teams in North and Central America (plus Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana). They finished second in a group featuring Haiti, Jamaica and group winners Costa Rica to progress to the fifth and final qualifying round.
In the fifth round they had to finish in the top three to qualify for the World Cup or fourth to enter into a play-off. After nine of the ten games had been played they found themselves fourth with Mexico and Costa Rica having already qualified and Trinidad and Tobago knocked out. After 87 minutes of their final match with Costa Rica, they were level at 1-1 but heading out with Honduras and the USA both above them. Having gone 1-0 down, a controversial equaliser was given to Gabriel Torres despite having not crossed the line. On 88 minutes, defender Roman Torres wrote his name into Panamanian history when he smashed the winner past goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton sending his country into third place and booking a ticket to Russia.
Five of the Panama team called up for recent friendlies against Wales and Iran currently ply their trade in Europe. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, who has 128 caps, plays in Romania with Dinamo Bucuresti. Defender Erick Davis is at Slovakian top flight side Dunajska Streda. Midfielder Ricardo Avila is with the reserves of Belgian side KAA Gent. Attacker Ismael Diaz is in the Spanish third tier with Deportivo Fabril, the reserve side of Deportivo la Coruna, whilst Gabriel Torres, a former Manchester United trialist, is in Switzerland with Lausanne-Sport. Panama’s top scorers with 43 goals are Peru-based Luis Tejada and Blas Perez of Guatemalan side Municipal.
Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez is one Panamanian who has faced England before at a World Cup. He was manager of the Columbia side that finished third in their group at France 1998, behind second-placed England, but ahead of Tunisia. He also took Ecuador to the tournament in Japan and South Korea back in 2002.


The June 24th clash in Novgorod will be the first time England have ever played Panama.
Whilst defeat to Belgium would not be a disaster (assuming things have gone to plan in the other two games), losing to Tunisia would be a massive blow, whilst picking up no points against Panama would prove to be a disaster of Icelandic proportions. San Marino have managed to dispel the old cliché “there are no easy games in football”, but truly poor teams do not qualify for World Cups meaning Gareth Southgate’s side will have to stay professional to ensure there are no early upsets. A top two finish will set up a last 16 tie against Poland, Japan, Colombia or Senegal. The minimum that should be expected from this tournament.

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