A WEARSIDE man has flown to Mexico to represent England at this year’s Homeless World Cup.
Paul Thompson, from Chester-le-Street, has travelled more than 5,000 miles to pull on his kit after being spotted playing five-a-side football in Durham.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be taking park in this competition,” said Paul.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to take park in a world-class event and to be trained by Britain’s best.
“I’m passionate about football, having played for fun from a very early age.”
Paul emerged successful from a group of 90 hopefuls, who were watched during a month-long trial at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground.
There had been 2,000 initial applications, making Paul’s selection even more remarkable.
Paul, who has successfully gained a Level 1 in Coaching Skills, works with The Cyrenians, a North East-based charity that support the vulnerable and homeless.
Group chief executive of The Cyrenians, Stephen Bell, said: “In this exciting year of sport for the UK, we are absolutely delighted with Paul’s international achievement.
“Paul wasn’t only recruited for his footballing prowess but his leadership and team work skills, which helped put him in the final eight.
“This is a superb achievement for Paul and we wish him every success as he represents the North East and The Cyrenians on the global stage.”
The tournament held in the country’s capital, Mexico City, sees 52 men’s teams and 14 women’s teams compete for glory.
Unlike professional football, the Homeless World Cup is played to the Homeless FA’s Street Rules Soccer guidelines, with teams being made up of eight players, rather than the traditional 11.
Paul and his team-mates got their campaign under way on Saturday, losing 3-2 to their Russian counterparts.
This result was followed by another defeat to Bulgaria on Sunday, before picking up their first points of the competition by beating Hong Kong 9-5 later that day.
Team England will play their final group fixture against the old enemy, Germany, as they bid to make the tournament’s knock-out stages.
Paul has ambitions of bringing the cup home, but there’s a lot of work still to be done, in the city where Diego Maradona famously scored the Hand of God goal for Argentina against England in the 1986 World Cup.
England’s women’s side are struggling at the bottom of their league, after being beaten 10-0 by hosts Mexico and 15-1 by Brazil.
Paul’s progress will be posted online at www.homelessfa.org.