How a soccer tournament is transforming the way street children are seen and treated. Stephen Tomkins is on the sidelines
The Street Child World Cup was the brainchild of a pupil sitting in school assembly one day. A group of Cambridge families had visited South Africa in 2010, staying at uMthombo, a project working with street children. While there, they witnessed the Durban police rounding up street children, jailing them or removing them from town – ‘cleaning up’ the area before the World Cup. On their return to Cambridge, the young people gave presentations in their school assemblies about their experiences in South Africa. A student in assembly raised their hand and said: ‘Why can’t the street children have their own world cup?’ The parents who had come to see their children’s assembly thought: Hmm…
So that year, Durban also hosted the first Street Child World Cup. Teams competed from eight countries, India beating Tanzania 1-0 in the final.
The event gained more attention than the organisers could have hoped for. News reports picked up on the police round ups which had inspired the event, and they were stopped – a result for which uMthombo had campaigned for ten years.
When the Fifa World Cup came to Brazil in 2014, it was preceded by the second Street Child World Cup. This time a girls’ tournament ran alongside the boys’, with 24 teams in total from 19 countries.
Rather than waiting another four years for the next world cup, the charity that had been formed to run the events, Street Child United, organised Street Child Games in Rio de Janeiro to accompany the Olympics in 2016. The 2018 soccer tournament in Moscow will be followed by the first Street Child Cricket World Cup in London. …
Stephen Tomkins is Editor of Reform. Street Child United are based at United Reformed Church House, London
This is an extract from an article that was published in the July/August 2018 edition of Reform