Lifestyle & Belief

It's time to kick off the Street Child World Cup in Rio!

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TO GO WITH "FBL-PAK-CHILDREN-POVERTY" FOCUS BY SHAHID HASHMI

This photograph taken on March 17, 2014, shows Pakistani street children taking part in a football training camp in Karachi for the forthcoming Street Child World Cup which starts in Brazil next week. Sixteen-year-old drug addict Mohammad Salman thought he was destined to live his life on the mean streets of Karachi, begging for survival and with no prospects for a better future. That all changed one day when he was spotted by the non-profit Azad Foundation, which rehabilitates street children in the sprawling Pakistani metropolis of 19 million. The first edition was held in South Africa ahead of the 2010 World Cup and featured Brazil, South Africa, Nicaragua, Ukraine, India, the Philippines, Tanzania and a team from Manchester, England. India won the inaugural event, which proved so successful that it was decided to hold it ahead of every football World Cup. AFP PHOTO/Asif HASSAN (Photo credit should read ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Credit:

ASIF HASSAN

There were some exciting World Cup soccer matches scheduled for Sunday, March 30. Indonesia has a tough task facing Brazil. USA v. India is a promising fixture. And England looks to avoid another international underperformance when it faces Mozambique.

But we didnt't see Wayne Rooney, Neymar, or any other stars of world football on the pitch. You won’t recognize any of the players' names, but they’ve got serious footy skills and they didn’t develop them at the fancy youth academies of FC Barcelona or Real Madrid.

This is the Street Child World Cup (SCWC) and the players are all kids who live and work in the streets of places like Karachi, Pakistan, Mwanza, Tanzania and — lest we forget that there’s plenty of abject poverty closer to home — cities in the US and UK.

The first SCWC took place in South Africa in 2010. The event, sponsored by Save the Children, is back and taking place in Brazil, which will host the World Cup this summer.

This year’s SCWC features approximately 230 players between the ages of 14 and 17. They represent 19 countries. 

All of the kids spent time living on the street. Many still do. Their lives are desperate, dangerous, often invisible.

According to Joe Hewitt, the head of SCWC’s Brazil office, a goal of SCWC — in addition to highlighting the global problem of youth homelessness and poverty — is to remind people that children living on the streets are human beings who deserve a much, much better life. It’s sounds pretty basic, but, sadly, it's a message that's needed.

“One of the biggest challenges these children face is the stigma that goes with living on the streets. They are treated as subhuman, as outcasts from society,” Hewitt told the Independent. “One of our key aims is to challenge the negative perceptions and treatment of these kids, to give them a platform to be seen as children.”

That’s why the official song of SCWC 2014 is called “I am Somebody.” The video is pretty great.

The kids seem pretty psyched about the tournament. Here are some photos! Follow them on Twitter @SCWC2014. Here are some of the teams traveling and arriving in Rio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all smiles from the kids. But the tournament’s opening has also brought news that Rodrigo Kelton, the captain of Brazil’s SCWC team, was shot to death in the favela slum where he lived. The killing was in retaliation for a robbery he’d allegedly committed before joining the team. It was his 14th birthday.