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Chile's 2014 Homeless World Cup: A Real Game Changer

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Chilean players and Argentinian players fight for the ball during 12th Homeless World Cup soccer tournament in front of the government palace in Santiago October 19, 2014. Some 52 teams, including 12 women teams, take part in the tournament, which starts on Sunday until October 26th. Participants of the tournament are either asylum seekers, homeless or in drug or alcohol rehabilitation treatment. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado (CHILE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER SOCIETY DRUGS POVERTY)
Chilean players and Argentinian players fight for the ball during 12th Homeless World Cup soccer tournament in front of the government palace in Santiago October 19, 2014. Some 52 teams, including 12 women teams, take part in the tournament, which starts on Sunday until October 26th. Participants of the tournament are either asylum seekers, homeless or in drug or alcohol rehabilitation treatment. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado (CHILE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER SOCIETY DRUGS POVERTY)IVAN ALVARADO / Reuters

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The eight-day 2014 Homeless World Cup started Sunday in Santiago, Chile, and participation in this international soccer tournament requires one of two criteria - being homeless or living in extreme poverty.

The event is credited with turning many lives around.

Around eighty percent of the players who take part in the event, which consists of 54 teams from different countries, go on to find jobs, homes or overcome substance abuse. The event's site has testimonials of players from countries like Mexico and Peru who relate how they left the streets and have stable jobs and families.

Homeless World Cup president Mel Young said the organisation works with the selected players for a year in preparation for the international event. Over 350 five-a-side matches will be played over the next week, and the final game takes place next Sunday, October 26.

--The Associated Press

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