More than a competition: Third international Street Child World Cup takes place in Moscow


In the span of a week the third international Street Child World Cup has finished their competition with two teams taking home the Cup. In a repeat of last year, Brazil won it all for the girls, while on the boy’s side Uzbekistan took home their first Street Child World Cup title. While winning is always nice, the international youth participating in this tournament came for more than just soccer. They came to remind the world that they are someone. 

According to the 2017 “Point-In-Time” census taken by the Oregon Housing and Community Services department, in Oregon alone almost 14,000 people go homeless in a single night with 1,731 of those being children. Nationally, around 550,000 children in the United States spend at least a week homeless. Around the world the statistics are even more staggering with the United Nations estimating that over 150 million youth live, work or spend the majority of their time on the street.

Street Child United (SCU), in coalition with youth organizations world-wide, created the Street Child World Cup to run just before the FIFA World Cup in order to gain visibility and create a platform which highlights the state of the youth living on the streets. Often exposed to violence and abuse, the tournament empowers these young men and women to express themselves and bring international attention to their plight and the plight of millions of other street associated children.

“Their day-to-day commitment to some of the most marginalized children in the world is astounding.” Joe Hewitt said in a recent interview about his volunteer experience with Street Child United. The English-born New Yorker learned about the experiences of the street youth from his brother Tom, who founded several organizations in Durban, South Africa that serve children associated with the streets. When Durban hosted the first ever Street Child World Cup, Joe took lead as the media manager of the event. 

As a current volunteer in Moscow Joe spoke of the impact that Street Child World Cup has on these youth. “Society can often negatively define the life story of these children. Through the projects the children reclaim their self-belief, their life story. It’s amazing how children who have been so lost, so let down, so traumatized, can rebuild to a positive personal journey and reintegrate into society. I believe soccer can play a critical role in helping street-connected children and bringing their story to wider attention.”

Street Child World Cup Moscow is being sponsored by the second largest mobile phone company in Russia, MegaFon, and has brought together the street connected youth of the world alongside orphans. UNICEF estimates there are over 150 million youth classified as orphans world-wide, the Russian authorities reported in 2016 that around 66,000 live in Russia. MegaFon has been a leading advocate for these orphans, running an annual soccer tournament since 2005 where teams of orphans throughout Russia compete called, “The Future Depends on You”.

“Bridges not Walls” USA plays Mexico in an earlier round of Street Child World Cup Moscow (Picture courtesy Street Child United USA Facebook. Photo credit: Joe Hewitt).

While only their third Street Child World Cup, with 23 countries competing, it has already expanded well beyond the eight countries that first met in South Africa.  The USA sent a team of nine girls from the DC area to compete, working with three youth organizations, The National Network for Youth (NN4Y), America SCORES and The Open Goal Project. Team USA made it to the Quarter Finals only to be eliminated by Tanzania, who fell to Brazil in the final.

Whether a team went far in the tournament has very little impact on the life-long friendships that are being formed. Coaches, volunteers and players continue to stay connected after their matches end, WhatsApp being a popular way to keep in touch.

Molly King, current head of marketing for Street Child USA, explains the impact of the youth’s time at the tournament can create ripple effects with youth empowering other street youth when they return home. Along with this ripple effect, tournament sponsors have made sure that these youth are supported beyond the tournament, “There is a truly wonderful legacy program in place. Due to some incredibly generous fundraising efforts from the Vitol Foundation, every team and their supporting organization participating in the Street Child World Cup is expected to receive $10,000 when they return home to sustain their work improving the situation for street connected youth and those experiencing homelessness in their community.”

Beyond the matches, just after tournament play ended in Moscow, the General Assembly was held where tournament participants were given opportunities to come together. Professional artists worked with these youth to create an art exhibit of their own, allowing them to freely express themselves, move past any language barriers, build confidence and help to unify street children from around the world.

Joe Hewitt was responsible for the General Assembly in Moscow, which was hosted by eight young adults who participated in previous Street Child events. “They have all transitioned into adulthood staying on a positive path in their self-development. Their example is invaluable to the children participating. They are proof that with the right support, rehabilitation, and opportunities, every child can reach their potential.”

Street Child World Cup: The Future Depends on You, also ran a Congress for Street Children, with workshops led by StreetInvest, in an effort to educate these youth on their rights, while also providing them a safe space to share their experiences.

This year’s unified message made it clear that the impact of the tournament will go beyond these few days. The captain of the Nepal Boys team put it best, “The hands that were raised yesterday to beat us on the streets are now raised to honor us. Until a few months back we were termed as “khate” [derogatory name for the working class or poor], we were attacked as criminals, but today we have an identity as national players. We are the change, we are the voice.”

For more news on the General Assembly, updates, recaps, or volunteer information you can follow Street Child United on Twitter, or visit their website.

International Competitions

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About Author

Megan Cleary is the Senior Women's Editor at Prost Amerika. Growing up in Oregon, she has been enveloped in soccer all her life. After years of freelance writing, she began covering Thorns matches for Prost in 2015 and quickly moved her way up to editor in 2016. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon

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