Street Children World Cup
Egypt has so many hidden gems that just need a chance to see the light. They are younge, genuine and full of energy and they will teach you a thing or two about humility and inspiration. We are proud to have met the Egyptian Street Children Soccer Team during a training session before flying to Brazil.
Street Children World Cup (SCWC) is a global football tournament that aims at raising awareness about the millions of children around the world and the thousands of Egyptians who live on the streets. By bringing these children to global attention, there will be great opportunities to fight social stigmas and negative stereotypes.
The countries that took part this year in the tournament that kicked off on 27th of March were Argentina, Brazil, Burundi, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, England, the US, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania and luckily Egypt. Egypt travelled with a group of more than 25, including 9 boys, 2 girls, 5 coaches and 9 representatives from 3 NGOs like Hope Village, I the Egyptian and Face for Children in Need. They have attained birth certificates, passports and visas, and they have met some of the most famous names in football.
Karim Hosny, an investment banker who also coaches the team at the AUC, heard about the Street Child World Cup while on a trip with his squad for a tournament in London and that’s when he had the brilliant idea of making it happen in Egypt. Many people and companies helped funding the travel expenses and made it happen.
We met with the SCWC team in AUC campus where they have their weekly trainings. As they hit the courtyard, it seems that anything else is secondary; it is about the game, about the team and about belonging. They are regular boys playing soccer, growing as a team and loving the challenge, leaving their stories behind and looking into a future. One of the rules to be part of the team is to be off the streets and staying in a shelter, which has been working well so far.
Our team played against Brazil, Liberia, and a very powerful and challenging match against South Africa. They also engaged in discussions with other children from different countries and talked about common grounds. There were translators present in all social gatherings and the Egyptian team didn’t find any social barriers. Football was a great universal language. “I became so excited when he first chose me to travel to Brazil. I’m not only going to a new country, I am going to a new continent!” Abdel Alim, 13 expresses his happiness.
Some of the children practiced football on the streets years before the tournament and other played in their NGOs. “I used to play on the streets with my friends and I used to be their goalkeeper. One day, a coach showed up at I the Egyptian NGO and selected me among other 50 children to participate in SCWC tournament. I was extremely happy” Mahmoud, 13 tells us. “He selects children according to their good behaviors and manners. I want to become a professional goalkeeper and play in Al Ahly Club” he adds.
The coaches, all volunteers, spared no efforts to catapult their team to the World Cup, “I was worried and afraid I might fail at first but thanks to the coach who gave me confidence and kept me training. I want to become a professional football player as it has always been my dream since my early childhood. Our captain said that he’ll help us join clubs until we become professional football players” Abdel Alim says.
Being confident and knowing that they’ll make it to the tournament is a huge thing that some might be afraid of dreaming about it. “The kids at I the Egyptian Foundation used to tease me and bully me for not being a good player, now look how far I have become.”Adam, 14 tells. “Now I became very confident and aware of my capabilities and I don’t have to ask other kids their opinion about my performance anymore” He adds.
Hoping for the best is sometimes the real challenge in a place where hope can be some kind of fiction.”My country is beautiful; the problem is in the people themselves. Some people live in a valley on their own in Egypt and others are very encouraging to us” he explains. “I’m optimistic about Egypt, yes the country is total mess but I still have hope” he adds.
Brazil was more than a happy ending for Egypt’s team. Today, they will proceed with rehearsals and trainings. They’ll make something like a World Cup but on a local and minor scale. They are also planning to start an Academy for rehabilitating street children through football.
We asked them the common question every child is asked “What do you want to become when you grow up?” and those kids had the most beautiful answers “It doesn’t matter who I want to become when I grow up, all that matters that I don’t need or depend on anyone except myself” Mahmoud closes.