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Netflix Debuts 'The Beautiful Game' Based On The Homeless World Cup

March 29, 2024

Today, Netflix debuted a sports drama that promises to inspire audiences worldwide. "The Beautiful Game" is based on the remarkable true story of the Homeless World Cup, an annual international street football tournament that transcends borders and transforms lives.

The 21-year-old tournament unites homeless individuals from over 80 nations through the universal language of the beautiful game. Far from being merely a sporting spectacle, this week-long competition offers participants a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent their country and become part of a global community of players who have faced homelessness and social exclusion. And for those attending or watching the tournament, being among the remarkable participants often changes their perceptions and attitudes on those experiencing homelessness.

“I hope people enjoy the movie because, with homelessness there are horrors and it’s easy to feel hopeless, depressed and impotent to doing anything about it. This movie is not like that,” said Homeless World Cup president and co-founder, Mel Young. “It destroys the stereotypical view of homelessness and shows they are human beings like all of us - they’re tall, small, good, bad, male, female.”


The film stars acclaimed actor Bill Nighy as Mal, manager of England's homeless football team, who travels to Rome with talented striker Vinny (Michael Ward) and team to compete in the tournament. Young played a prominent role in the film’s development, while screenwriter Frank Cotrell-Boyce worked closely with the Homeless World Cup Foundation and past participants to develop the characters and plot. Actor Colin Farrell, who co-produced the film, is an ambassador for the Scotland-based foundation.

Graham Broadbent, co-chairman of the film’s production company Blueprint Pictures, said they discovered the foundation through Farrell: “I was simply very moved by the stories of the Homeless World Cup, the players and their journeys. There are many films to be made about homelessness, but the lovely thing about the Homeless World Cup, and I hope the film too, is they show people can make a difference, on a wave of positivity the tournament helps those involved live their very best lives.”

According to statistics provided by the foundation, the global homeless population stands at a staggering 100 million, with an additional 1 billion people lacking adequate housing. This not only perpetuates social exclusion but also exacerbates economic hardship, plunging people into poverty and giving rise to a myriad of physical and mental health challenges. The crisis extends far beyond the absence of shelter; it is a multifaceted issue that undermines human dignity and erodes society.

Organized by the foundation, the competition serves a dual purpose: to harness the unifying power of football and to combat the pervasive isolation that often accompanies homelessness. Football acts as a catalyst, fostering camaraderie and mitigating the sense of alienation experienced by those without stable housing. By embracing principles of fair play and inclusivity, the tournament provides players with opportunities for positive interactions with authority figures, thus bolstering their self-esteem and sense of belonging. To date, more than 1.2 million people have participated across 200 clubs.


There are two main divisions within the tournament: the Homeless World Cup, with both men’s and mixed-gender teams, and the Women's Homeless World Cup. Currently, men’s teams outnumber women’s teams, although the foundation seeks to enlist more women’s teams in the future. Past tournaments have taken place from Paris to Rio De Janeiro to Cape Town. Transportation, food and accommodation for players and coaches is arranged by the member partners and Homeless World Cup Foundation. Admission is free, with over 168,000 spectators in attendance and millions watching over live stream.

However, the impact of the foundation extends far beyond the confines of the playing field. Through its extensive network of nearly 70 grassroots organizations worldwide, the foundation remains steadfast in its commitment to addressing the root causes of homelessness and social isolation. By implementing year-round initiatives focused on homelessness, the organization equips individuals with tools, skills and a platform to effect positive change in their lives.

Joining a team marks a significant milestone for these individuals, propelling them toward a newfound sense of community inclusion. By highlighting the stories of real-life players who have found hope and redemption through the Homeless World Cup, "The Beautiful Game" amplifies the voices of those often overlooked by society. It challenges viewers to confront their preconceptions about homelessness and to take action.


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