More Than Just a Game
Perhaps ‘5’ is to be a lucky mascot for Russia: just one month ago it played host to five of the same national football teams hoping to achieve victory in their own world cup campaigns.
But a month ago, those five teams were of a very different nature. Unlike the (often) multimillionaire status and worldwide celebrity that comes with football fame, those competing were young people in current, previous or at-risk situations of homelessness, invisible homelessness, or life living and working on the streets.
The Street Child World Cup brought together over 200 young men and women, aged between 14 and 17, to represent their countries. Street Child United, the organisation who ran the event, provides a platform for street-connected children around the world to challenge the negative perceptions and abusive behaviour they experience on a daily basis. When the 23 teams stood together in the Lokomotiv stadium in Moscow – home of the new Russian Premier League – they had more than just lifting the champions’ trophy on their minds:
StreetInvest was a proud partner of the Street Child World Cup. We were engaged to plan and run a congress with the young people to run alongside the football. Through workshops delivered over three days, Co-CEOs Duncan and Kate led a team of nine facilitators – including our Regional Coordinating Partners from Kenya, India, and Ghana – to deliver a series of workshops with the young people. Congress created a safe space for them to share their experiences with one another and to feel empowered to advocate for change for themselves and other young people with similar experiences. They showed incredible strength as they spoke about experiences of physical and sexual violence, of the stigma and discrimination they face, often lacking access to even the most basic services. And they had a powerful message for the rest of the world: we are somebody and it is time to change our story. As our own Duncan Ross said:
More than 3.2 billion people are expected to tune into the World Cup final but imagine what could happen if they turned their eyes and ears towards street-connected children around the world. What might be achieved if they took the time to hear the words which the young people spoke at their general assembly – the real finals of their Street Child World Cup?
Perhaps one of the five teams who are currently on the world stage – Brazil, Egypt, England, Mexico or Russia – will demonstrate the same strength and determination as their young counterparts. But even if they don’t, perhaps they, the other 27 teams, and the people watching have something to learn. No matter who wins the competition, football can be more than just a game:
Real change takes lasting support. As StreetInvest celebrates its 10th year of working to ensure a more positive future for street-connected children and to end the stigma and discrimination they face, we know we still have a long road ahead. Please support us here