6 Africans Desert Soccer Tournament

AP, August 4, 2007

Six Africans who came to Denmark to play in the Homeless World Cup soccer tournament deserted their national teams and disappeared in the Danish capital and authorities said they would begin searching for them on Sunday.

The Homeless World Cup, started in 2003 by editors of newspapers sold by homeless people, is a six-day street soccer tournament that drew 500 players from 48 countries. The tournament, which ended Saturday, aims to focus attention on the world’s estimated 1 billion homeless people and put players on a path to independence.

Liberia managed to take third place, despite playing with no substitutes after four players deserted the team. Two more players, from Cameroon and Burundi, also vanished into the streets of Copenhagen.

Authorities said they would begin searching for the missing players after their visas expired Sunday.

The street-style game features hockey-like boards and small goals, with four-player teams of mixed ages and genders. Each game lasts 14 minutes, with two seven-minute halves.

Since its 2003 inception, when 18 nations participated in Austria, the tournament has steadily grown. Organizers say that 12 players have become professional or semi-professional soccer players or coaches.

Scotland defeated Poland 9-3 to win the tournament.

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