Despite travelling with only four of the selected eight players due to financial constraints, Zimbabwe played well at the Homeless World Cup (HWC) held in Glasgow, Scotland last month. The team took part in the four-a-side soccer tournament, going as far as the Men’s Shield Trophy, a third tier trophy which they lost to Wales.
Financial hardships had limited HWC local partners’ Young Achievement Sports for Development (YASD)’s selection from Harare. YASD communication and publicity officer Joe Kuseka said, “The eight member team we selected were from various parts of Harare including Sunningdale, Hatcliffe Extension, Mbare, Highfields, and Warren Park.”
At the HWC, each team fields four players at a time which means that Zimbabwe was left with no substitutes for injured or out of form players. They also missed their opening match due to logistical challenges.
In spite this, the Zimbabwean players put up a spirited performance. “We played a total of 12 matches and only lost four. The players were focused and determined to finish the tournament in a respectable position,” said Kuseka.
HWC is an annual soccer tournament for disadvantaged youth. Locally, participants are selected by the YASD team from the young people they work with.
“Participants are not homeless per-say but face social exclusion or marginalisation for various reasons. The term ‘homeless’ is relative with respect to background,” said Kuseka. “This year we had a deaf player, Blessing Makirimira who used to be a street vendor taking part. We also had young people who come from very impoverished backgrounds.”
Kuseka said other team members were selected on the basis of turning their lives around or working hard to change their lives by going back to school or taking up new skills training. “The main point of selection is the motivation of the players to see themselves beyond their circumstances or lack of privileges.”
YASD has already started preparations for next year’s tournament. Kuseka says because a player can only go to one HWC, they have started scouting for new talent. “As an organisation we are planning on expanding our selection pool to reach other marginalized areas so that we can also impact and change the lives of more young people,” he said. “We also hope the young people who were part of the team we travelled with will also become role models to other young people who to want to be part of the Zimbabwe HWC team.”