Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Every country has professional teams which eagerly anticipate competing in tournaments like the FIFA World Cup. For the players involved, this is a time to create lasting fame and fortune.
But there is another tournament where the only thing that matters is social interaction and recognition: The Homeless Soccer World Cup (HSWC). HSWC maintains the glamorous big soccer tournament values of bringing together great athletes, but at a lower cost. It values the spirit of social inclusion and representation as it promotes the participation of marginalised communities.
HSWC is an annual event that attracts participants from more than 70 countries. Despite having different backgrounds, participants have one thing in common: social exclusion. To them, this tournament is about more than just soccer.
Last year, youth from the high density suburb of Hatcliffe got the opportunity to be part of the HSWC tournament held in the Netherlands. Looking back on the experience, the unlikely soccer heroes feel proud to have proven that there is more to them than just being ‘homeless’.
Goalkeeper for the 2015 team, Moreblessing Gwauya, recalls the week he spent at the tournament as a life-changing experience.
“My experiences in the Netherlands were something I’ll never forget. They were eye-opening. I learnt about so many cultures by meeting different people,” he said.
For 20 year-old Winston Karasa, being part of the 2015 team gave him the motivation to mentor other young kids in his neighbourhood.
“I come from a poor community where nobody expects anything good from us. The tournament helped me prove that given the chance to nurture our talents – be it singing or sports – we can do our country proud,” explained Karasa.
In order to participate in the HSWC, players have to fit each individual country’s definition of homelessness. Some of the Hatcliffe youth qualified because they lost their homes during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005.
Gwauya and Karasa were able to have the HSWC experience they proudly share today because of the advocacy work of the Youth Achievement Sports for Development (YASD). YASD is an organisation that helps youth develop their talent through sports training, career guidance and professional and soft skills training.
YASD Programmes Coordinator, Petros Chatiza says that organising the tournament is one of the programmes they have among others that focuses on mentoring young people and providing them with opportunities to improve their lives.
“To us it is not about sending a team abroad, but rehabilitation. Getting acknowledgement as country representatives gives them the motivation to go back to their community and fight for a better life,” said Chatiza.
YASD helps with fundraising for each team to participate in the tournament annually. Participating countries have to pay the transport costs of their teams to and from the host country.
Image: Youth playing soccer in Hatcliffe