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A festival of friendship, fair play and street children’s rights
The Street Child World Cup ended in spectacular fashion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after ten days in which 230 children from 19 countries played football, formed new friendships and helped to put children’s rights firmly on the international agenda – all with the blessing of the Pope. Brazil girls and Tanzania boys were the winners of the 2014 Street Child World Cup, organised in association with Save the Children. If you haven’t already checked out our film from the finals, take a few minutes to view it here.
VIP visitors to the event ranged from World Cup winners Bebeto and Gilberto Silva to Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. There was also a message from Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.
But for the children taking part and the almost 200 volunteers working at the event, the highlight had clearly been the spirit of friendship and fair play between the competing teams, summed up in the creation of “Zimdonesialand”, which emerged after girls from Indonesia played against girls from Zimbabwe, with the teams congratulating each other on their goals and holding placards with the name of their new country.
The Arts played a key role with children singing, dancing and performing together in an atmosphere of openness that the adults have found inspiring.
“This World Cup was more than just about football, it was about building confidence of these young people and hopefully giving them an experience they will never forget,” said former Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere, an ambassador and volunteer at the event.
Ben Page, a US coach, said: “My boys have been successful on the pitch but all they have been talking about is their friendships with other kids. They know that in many ways they are lucky because they are returning to better conditions than many of the others.”
The event puts the spotlight on children’s rights and gives street children a platform before the FIFA World Cup, which is to be held in June. The children took part in a unique conference, which is to produce the Rio Rights Declaration, a statement of their demands, which they will take back to their governments as well as to the United Nations. In Brazil where the Street Child World Cup now has an office, the organisation is backing the campaign for a national policy on street children, A Crianca nao e da Rua (Children are not of the Street). A powerful symbol of the event has been the image of Rodrigo Kelton, former captain of the Brazilian boys’ team, who was murdered by drug gangsters on his 14th birthday in Fortaleza weeks before kick off.
“You have all packed your bags and traveled around the world,” said Manoel Torquato, of the campaign, “but one boy did not make it. He did not catch the flight to Rio.” He urged everyone to remember Rodrigo and all the other street children who have been killed.
No visit to Rio de Janeiro would have been complete without an excursion to the Christ the Redeemer statue or Maracana football stadium, a temple for many of the soccer-crazy youngsters from Argentina, Brazil, Burundi, Nicaragua, El Salvador, India, Pakistan, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Liberia, South Africa, Kenya, India, Tanzania, Philippines, Mauritius, Indonesia and England. The event also took in a trip to the favela of Vidigal, where the children met local kids and tried out capoeira moves.
Behind it all, however, there was a serious message, and organisers are confident the second event could lead to significant changes for street children around the world.
Joe Hewitt, Director of the Brazil office, said: “The Street Child World Cup has become an international movement represented across 19 countries. The message is clear that it is unacceptable that children should have to live or work on the streets anywhere in the world. Each team will return to their country and lead the way in demanding that the rights of street children are safeguarded.”