A men’s team from Northern Ireland are jetting off to America this week to compete at the annual Homeless World Cup.
Street Soccer NI, a charity working with homeless people and disadvantaged groups across Northern Ireland, has put the team together.
Eight players will be representing Northern Ireland at the global tournament in Sacramento, California, which runs from 8 to 15 July.
Around 60 countries are due to compete at the event, which is being staged at California State University’s Hornet Football Stadium and run by the Homeless World Cup Foundation. There will be circa 48 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams taking part.
The Irish FA Foundation provides support to the Northern Ireland men’s team, who will be playing 12 four-a-side matches across the group stages and placing matches. The match schedule will be determined just before the tournament begins.
Justin McMinn, CEO and co-founder of Street Soccer NI, said the squad and coaches are excited to be taking part in the Homeless World Cup once again following a break due to the Covid pandemic.
"We’ve witnessed over the years what a huge impact this event can have on people’s lives. Many come back full of motivation and confidence to make positive changes in their lives including getting a house, entering employment, becoming a volunteer and more,” he explained.
He also revealed the Irish FA has provided kit for the squad heading to California. He said having an official Northern Ireland kit with their name on the back will be “extra special for the players”.
Team NI, who are supported this year by Simon Community NI, Choice Housing and Nationwide among others, will be jetting out to the States on Thursday (6 July), while the tournament starts on Saturday.
The eight-strong squad includes Amin Jalali, Jonny Holland, Alfred Quansah, Caoimhinn Gallagher, Osama Almahmoud, Michael Devlin, Thomas Brown and Talal Alsakkaf.
The team are coached by Terry Moore and Justin McMinn.
Image: The Northern Ireland squad and coaches bound for the Homeless World Cup. They are: (back, from left) Justin McMinn, Amin Jalali, Jonny Holland, Alfred Quansah, Terry Moore; (front) Caoimhinn Gallagher, Osama Almahmoud, Michael Devlin. Inset: Thomas Brown, Talal Alsakkaf.