The Korea Herald

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Korean homeless team wins award

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Published : Sept. 27, 2010 - 17:57

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An unlikely South Korean World Cup soccer team won an award after facing their share of adversities Monday. This happened, inconspicuously, amid the fever sparked by South Korea’s winning of the Women’s U17 World Cup title.

The South Korean team at the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro won the “Best Newcomer” award after a weeklong tournament that started on Sept. 19.

“They won this award because they personified the true meaning of the tournament,” said Jin Moo-doo, sales director of The Big Issue, the magazine that organized the team.

Both the tournament and The Big Issue Korea were separately founded with the purpose of helping homeless individuals find a way to turn their life around.

The monthly entertainment and current affairs magazine sent six homeless vendors of their paper to Brazil in order to compete in the four-man team tournament.

“Despite their lack of experience, they never gave up in the face of obstacles and hindrances,” he said.

They trained the homeless athletes for three months. Some of the men practiced with slippers, because there weren’t enough sponsors, said Jin.

The team was faced with more challenges when they were unable to procure enough funds to participate at the 64 nation tournament. The magazine was able to obtain last minute sponsoring of 20 million won ($17,300) from the Community Chest of Korea, 3 million won from netizens and another 7 million won from the Korean Football Association.

The Korean team was ranked 43rd at the end of the tournament, but showed that it was only a number by winning the hearts of the crowd.

“They have championed and personified the spirit and bravery of all those who play at this tournament,” as quoted in a Homeless World Cup article.

The Big Issue Korea sells copies to homeless individuals for 1,400 won, who in turn sell it to the public for 3,000 won.

By Robert Lee (rjmlee@heraldcorp.com)