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The Street World Cup

by Andy Davis / 05.03.2010

One World Cup you may not have heard of is kicking off in Durban next week. It doesn’t feature any professional athletes, no big names, brand endorsements, bling bling and multi-million dollar salaries. In fact hardly any one even knows about this World Cup, primarily because the participants are all street kids. Yes that’s right, all the participants of the Street Child World Cup tend to spend each night, in their home countries, sleeping on street corners, dodging criminal gangs and the police. “As the worlds media turns it’s attention to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 the issue of street children is one that must not be allowed to be ‘swept under the carpet’.” Says SCWC organiser Joe Hewitt. The whole event kicks off in Durban from the 15th to the 22nd March and is hosted by the Umthombo project, that the Mahala Surf Co. regularly supports.

Umthombo Street Children, the host organisation, is primarily run by street children. Umthombo is helping these kids reintegrate into families and communities, enabling them to access education, training them for a positive future and protecting them from abuse. “When people see us by the streets, they say that we are the street boys.” Says 15 year old Andile. “But when they see us playing soccer, they say that we are not the street boys. They say that we are people like them. They are people like us.”

The tournament will see teams of street kids from Brazil, India, Nicaragua, Phillipines, United Kingdom, Vietnam, Ukraine, Tanzania and South Africa battling each other in a round robin seven-a-side competition, which will take place at the Durban University of Technology.

“Football is a globally unifying force enjoyed by many and this must not exclude street children.” Reckons Joe. “In fact with regards to Umthombo and the other partner projects, football is used to provide young people with a structure, routine and fitness through a hugely popular discipline.”

SCWC Footballers

Despite the fact that relatively few people in South Africa have heard about the tournament, the initiative has been building a lot of momentum and support from some very big names overseas, with endorsements from the likes of David Beckham, Theo Walcott, Andriy Shevchenko, Eduardo Da Silva, Thandie Newton and Alex Ferguson among many others.
“I experienced hardcore street life in my youth.” Says the reigning WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao. “I know what it’s like. I congratulate the Deloitte Street Child World Cup project in it’s commitment to bring attention to the plight of Street Children through the power of football.”
“I am delighted that the first Street Child World Cup will take place in South Africa where I know there is a huge passion for football.” Says Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson. “No child should have to live on the streets and and I fully endorse this campaign giving street children a voice to claim their rights”

During the Street Child World Cup there will also be a conference and an art exhibition running parallel to the tournament. “The conference shifts attention to children’s rights, focusing on home/shelter, and access to health and education.” Says Hewitt. “It will be led by the young people and attended by selected NGOs and delegates.”

“I am proud that the first ever Street Child World Cup will be held in my country in 2010.” Says Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena. “Football has the power to unite people from all over the world and gives young people the discipline and focus to let their true talent shine.”

And as a parting shot, the people’s Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu chimes in “The Street Child World Cup demonstrates the tremendous potential of every single child, and especially street children, who are so often treated as less than human. I urge all governments to guarantee the rights of this most marginalised group of their citizens to lives in which their promise is fulfilled.”

And what happens after the tournament, do the kids just go back to living on the streets in their home countries, you may well ask.
“All of the street child participants are involved in programmes with the international partner organisations, which support them in building secure long-term futures.”

Learn more here. Get involved here.

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