The Street Child World Cup ended in spectacular fashion on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after a week in which 230 children from 19 countries played football, formed new friendships and helped to put children’s rights firmly on the international agenda.
In the boys’ tournament, Tanzania defeated Burundi in the final match, after six matches throughout the 10-day event, held in association with Save the Children.
Girls from Rio de Janeiro representing Brazil won in their match against the Philippines at the Fluminense ground, after four matches, soaking up the atmosphere of one of Rio’s most historic clubs and watched by hundreds of spectators from around the world.
Nine girls’ teams and 15 boys’ teams took part. Final scores are posted on the website.
Among the VIP visitors on Sunday was Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.
The children also took part in a colourful closing ceremony choreographed by artistic director Renato Rocha.
But for the children taking part and the almost 200 volunteers, the highlight of the finals was the spirit of friendship and fair play between the competing teams, summed up earlier in the week in the creation of “Zindonesialand”, which emerged after girls from the Philippines played against girls from Zimbabwe, with the teams congratulating each other on their goals and holding placards with the name of their new country.
That spirit was evident on finals day, when children from different countries sang each others’ songs and communicated in an atmosphere of openness and warmth despite the competition.
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 has put the spotlight on children’s rights and given street children a platform before the Fifa World Cup, which is to be held in June. The second SCWC has won high-profile endorsements, including a personal message of support from Pope Francis, which was read out at the opening ceremony on 30 March. Prince William also sent a message of encouragement to the children taking part.
Former Brazilian internationals Gilberto Silva and Bebeto visited the site in southern Rio to meet the children – and to have a kick-about.
The children have also taken part in a unique conference, which is to produce a Rio Rights Declaration, a statement of their demands which they will take back to their governments as well as to the United Nations. 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 ago.
Behind the football, socialising and arts activities, there has been a serious message, and organisers are confident that 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.”
He made it clear that though the children will no longer be together in what has been a global village at the site in southern Rio, all will be united in fighting for the same goal. “Each team will return to their country and lead the way in demanding that the rights of street children are safeguarded.”
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