Slum kids eye youth ‘World Cup’

Viet Nam News - - SPORT -

JAKARTA — So­mad rarely ven­tures be­yond his im­pov­er­ished Jakarta neigh­bour­hood, but the 14-year-old is now gear­ing for a trip to Rus­sia next month as a player in the 2018 Street Child World Cup.

It’s the jour­ney of a life­time for the as­pir­ing striker and eight other In­done­sian kids set to com­pete against teams of other dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren from two dozen na­tions.

The event’s third edi­tion in Moscow is a long way from Bekasi on the out­skirts of In­done­sia’s teem­ing cap­i­tal where So­mad’s fa­ther sorts through foul trash heaps to find and sell us­able goods.

Along with his food-seller mother, the teen lives in a 45m makeshift home shared with four other fam­i­lies.

“Not many kids can be as lucky as I am,” says So­mad, who like many In­done­sians goes by one name.

“I want to make my par­ents and friends proud so we can have bet­ter lives and have no need to be scav­engers any­more.”

The slum is mostly pop­u­lated by trash pick­ers who live in its hun­dreds of shacks. A po­tent smell of garbage is ev­ery­where in the district where stray an­i­mals wan­der along its muddy roads.

More than 200 chil­dren are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the seven-a-side tour­na­ment, which kicks off ahead of this year’s Rus­sia-hosted World Cup.

Off the pitch, the kids will take part in art lessons, work­shops and there is a con­fer­ence fo­cused on dis­ad­van­taged youth.

“I want to help In­done­sia win the com­pe­ti­tion. But if we do win, I don’t want to show off,” says striker Bayu, picked for the In­done­sian con­tin­gent from among more than 90 chil­dren.

“I want to share the ex­pe­ri­ence with my friends when I’m back.”

In 2014, the boy’s team from Tan­za­nia won the tour­na­ment while the girl’s tro­phy was claimed by hosts Brazil.

The in­au­gu­ral 2010 event, started by Bri­tish char­ity Street Child United, was played in South Africa.

In­done­sian team coach Wahyu Kur­ni­awan said chil­dren from poor neigh­bour­hoods have a vi­tal­ity that is key to break­ing into pro­fes­sional foot­ball.

“Kids from the street are more ac­tive and tend to have more power and spirit,” he said.

“My job is to con­vert those qual­i­ties into good foot­ball skill and sports­man­ship on the field.”

But the tour­na­ment is about more than just sports — it’s to give a voice to marginalised chil­dren.

“Achieve­ment in the tour­na­ment is not our main pri­or­ity, it’s a bonus,” said Jes­sica Hut­ting from Kam­pus Di­akoneia Mod­ern (KDM), a chil­dren’s rights NGO that se­lected the In­done­sian play­ers.

“We use foot­ball as a tool to bring street-con­nected chil­dren to­gether in a safe space where their voices can be heard.” — AFP

Big dreams: So­mad lives with his fam­ily in a crowded neigh­bour­hood of scav­enger fam­i­lies in Bekasi on the out­skirts of In­done­sia’s cap­i­tal Jakarta. — AFP Photo

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