Brazil is set to host one of the biggest events in entertainment history: the 20th FIFA World Cup. And as World Cup fever consumes the country, its irresistible Cidade Maravilhosa (Wonderful City) has been staging a World Cup of its own.
The second Street Child World Cup has, indeed, been unfolding in Rio Janeiro – at a venue named Soccer City in tribute to South Africa, which hosted the first edition of the competition in 2010.
It involved over 230 boys and girls from 19 nations, all of whom live or used to live on the streets, and it is designed to raise awareness of homelessness as well as to boost the youngsters’ self-esteem, improve their social skills and give them an experience they won't forget.
“The situation on the streets is hard for girls, because society doesn’t see us,” explained Nicaragua's Blanca. “We are invisible.”
Her team-mate Maykelling added: “Now [girls] are being given the chance too. It’s really important that girls are in the spotlight. We learnt a lot. It was really exciting.”
The incredible spirit of the event was evident in the Zimbabwe girls’ 8-2 victory over Indonesia, when each goal was passionately celebrated by both sets of players. “Oh my goodness!” exclaimed the live commentator when, after a goal, the youngsters ran off hugging one another and dancing together in extremely moving scenes.
“We were all friends,” said Zimbabwean Ester. “We were all enjoying that we were scoring and they were scoring.”
‘I am somebody’ was the theme of the Street Child World Cup, and 230-plus somebodies will go home having enjoyed the experience of a lifetime.