On Saturday, the Homeless World Cup kicks off in Sacramento, with formerly homeless players from dozens of countries competing in a small-scale soccer tournament over a week.

Now twenty years old, the Homeless World Cup is organized by the Homeless World Cup Foundation, which is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. There hasn't been a tournament now since 2019's, which took place in Cardiff, and the latest is taking place at Cal State Sacramento.

As the New York Times explains, five hundred athletes from around the world will be competing in men's, women's, and co-ed matches — and these are smaller-scale games played on basketball-court-sized pitches.

Lisa Wrightsman, a coach of the U.S. women’s team, tells the Times that returning to soccer after a troubled time in her life, in which she got into drugs and alcohol and became famous, was greatly important to getting back on her feet.

"For all of us, playing gave us so much joy, to feel happy again, to see other people happy," Wrightsman says, talking about competing in the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Rio. "We didn’t have to pretend like we didn’t have our history. Everybody at that tournament had that history — that’s why you’re there."

"A lot of our participants — it sounds cheesy — but they’re winning by getting on the court in the first place," says James McMeekin, COO of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, speaking to the Times.

The tournament has a few celebrities among its "champions," including Welsh actor Michael Sheen. "The Homeless World Cup in Cardiff, 2019, was one of the proudest and most humbling experiences I’ve witnessed and been a part of for a very long time," Sheen says. "I want that feeling back and I couldn’t be happier to have joined the Homeless World Cup as a Champion."

Darrell Steinberg, the mayor of Sacramento, tells the Times it's a tremendous honor to be the host city of this year's Homeless World Cup.

"In our collective frustration about homelessness, unsheltered people too often get stripped of their humanity," Steinberg tells the paper. "The World Cup shows a different side. Everyone can be part of a team. Everyone can participate. Everyone can work hard to overcome and strive for a better life."

Kickoff is at 10 a.m. Saturday, with a parade and opening ceremony beforehand. All teams will play their first matches Saturday, and qualifying games continue through Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday are the Group Stage, with the Semi-Finals starting Friday.

Games are free to attend, and here's the full schedule. They will also be livestreamed here starting tomorrow morning.

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