The Homeless World Cup, which kicks off this Saturday in Amsterdam, will have 48 participating nations instead of the planned 49.

Team Nigeria, selected by the organisation’s National Partner in Lagos, have been denied visas by the Dutch government at the last moment.

“The decision is incomprehensible and simply the wrong thing to do”, says Homeless World Cup President Mel Young. “We are shocked and angered by this action of Dutch government officials, who are robbing homeless people of the opportunity to play for their country in an international tournament. Like all other teams, they had fundraised for the event and trained for months, only to be told now that they are not welcome in the Netherlands”.

“The Dutch government is sending out completely the wrong message. Here are people whose behaviour is impeccable and they have done everything which was asked them yet they are denied access to a sporting event for no apparent reason. They are all heroes and should be treated as such”.

He added: “It also has implications for all international sporting events. Are African countries going to be denied access to all sporting events? This a dangerous precedent”.

The team of 8 players and coaches and managers had to apply for their Dutch visa to the French embassy in Lagos, as there is no Dutch embassy there. After the French refused to issue the team with visas, the Homeless World Cup organisation asked the Dutch ministry responsible to issue the team visas on arrival instead. Although technically possible, the request was refused yesterday.

Yomi Kuku, director of the Nigerian project, said, "It's been months of hard work for everyone and just an effortless, shameful decision by France and by the Dutch government. What else can we do? We have all played our part. I will find the means to tell the heartbreaking news to our players and coaches".

The Homeless World Cup offers homeless and marginalised people a hand-up to a better future. Since its first event in 2003, over 1 million players in 74 nations have used football to build self-esteem, improve their physical and mental well-being and ultimately change their lives. Over 70% of participants experience a significant life change – they come off drugs, alcohol, get jobs, homes, education, training, become football players, coaches and social entrepreneurs.

CAFE Managing Director Joyce Cook said, "The Homeless World Cup is an important initiative that promotes and practises inclusion in a very real and tangible form. How disappointing it is to learn that the Nigerian team has so far been denied this opportunity. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners, the Homeless World Cup, in urging the Dutch Government to reconsider and welcome the Nigerian team to the tournament".

For further information about the Homeless World Cup, please click here.

Published 09/09/2015