Team Philippines is in full swing in scouting for players in Manila as the latest in a series of scouting tournaments for Team Philippines was . With teams from Gawad Kalinga, Josie’s Angels, Payatas FC, FC Leveriza, Kasiglahan, and Haven competing, there was plenty of talent on show as around 100 kids played against each other at The Camp in Taguig.
Now the official venue for Team Philippines for tryouts and scouting in Manila, the local tournaments and trainings have also been fully sponsored by Witsenburg Natural Products who are supporting the team on the Road to Rio. Scouting and tournaments in the provinces will also be held later this year.
There are two divisions for the Street Child World Cup, a Boys U16 and a Girls U17, but the competition is about more than football. Bringing together more than twenty countries to compete in Rio, Brazil, just months before the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the main purpose is to raise awareness of exactly what street children go through in the course of their “normal”, daily lives. Every team will represent their countries on and off the pitch as the football activities will be supplemented by youth conferences, art workshops, and declarations of the rights of children across the world.
The official account of the Street Child World Cup also has a series, releasing news and video of Today at the Street Child World Cup. The latest features one potential player for Team Philippines girls’ team, Crystal. She’s a girl I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since the first time I came to the Philippines back in 2009 when I volunteered with ASCF for three months, a charity run by Craig Burrows.
The children there are all amazing kids, many of them have gone through so much yet they’re some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. For Crystal, life began in a cemetery.
Crystal stayed in the cemetery where hundreds of people lived at the time until she was four years old. Many of the kids sniffed glue as the short high is an escape which dulls hunger pains. One of Team Philippines’ campaigns is to get mustard oil added to glue, something which effectively makes sniffing it impossible, however some multinational glue companies have lobbied against it for decades.
But that’s the reality for street kids. A lot of the kids who ended up there had run away from abusive homes, physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abusive relatives. With nowhere else to go they ended up where there were other people in similar situations, sleeping inside the emptied graves. And no-one supports them so they have to learn to fend for themselves.
“they’re in Heaven now...”
The children themselves learn from an early age to be entrepreneurial. A bad day or a lazy day means you don’t eat, so they spend most of the time working. Many children beg on the streets, others scavenge through trash to find something vaguely valuable to recycle or sell on to junkshops. Some join gangs and get into crime as a more lucrative way to make money. Having never gone to school, they have no future career options and in that situation turning to crime is a rational decision for many. After all, for the kids who live in that situation they’ve usually been abused by the very people who were supposed to protect them. Having received no love or care, what do they owe to anyone else passing by on the street who may take school for granted, a job, and a home as given?
In the long run, though, the consequence of this lifestyle is best put by Crystal herself when she is talking about her old friends from the cemetery: “it’s so sad to say that they’re in heaven now...”.
Each person living on the streets has a different story to tell but one thing remains the same: society has failed them. In a way Crystal was one of the few lucky ones as she got out. The hesitance in actually calling it ‘lucky’ is because it took her being hit by a firebomb at four years old, while she was sleeping in a grave, for that to happen. She was brought into Mango Tree House, the home run by ASCF, and given safety, food, shelter, an education, basically the rights all children should have to begin with.
Crystal’s story is harrowing but in many ways it is not unique. Many of the children trying out to join Team Philippines for the Street Child World Cup have similar tales to tell, the underlying theme is that the most vulnerable members of our society were discarded and treated as the worst.
It was only last year, on March 27, that the Philippines finally decriminalized vagrancy, the “crime” of being homeless and sleeping on the streets. Children who’d run away from abuse or were born on the streets were treated as criminals and the infamous child prisons were where they would usually end up. In many ways there has been progress over the last few years, but that progress has been slow.
Crystal herself is wants to be a social worker. She emphasized that she wants to go back and help those people who haven’t made it out, and in the video says, “I’m here speaking as a street child, to help them, not only me. I feel that I’m their voice, speaking what they’re feeling because I can feel what they feel”. Her voice will certainly be important in telling that story.
All Heart and Determination
Crystal, along with some of the other girls from Mango, joins the training sessions for the team and joins us for competitions and one story sums her up best. Pinay Futbol, the same group who organized the Pinay Futbol league and impressively held the rapidly improving Malditas to a 1-1 draw at the Emperador Stadium, organized a tournament last year for eight teams from developing communities.
Crystal captained one of the two teams we entered but she went off shortly after the first game began with dysmenorrhea, she didn’t told us beforehand she felt sick because she wanted to play so much. She even threw up at the side and so we got her some water and made her rest. But soon afterwards she stood up again, cheered for the team, and asked repeatedly to go back on the pitch. We let her play the next game and she captained the side as they never lost on their way to the final, and Crystal scored the winning goal in the penalty shootout and was named MVP.
She’s not the most technically gifted player, but she’ll give everything she’s got. The best attitude you can ask for on and off the pitch. Of course no player is sure of a place in Team Philippines for the Street Child World Cup, tryouts are ongoing and the team will be announced at the end of the year. But looking at where she came from and what she’s achieved, Crystal embodies the spirit of the Street Child World Cup and the motto: “I am Somebody”.
Roy Moore is the Executive Director of the Fairplay for All Foundation, the charity organizing Team Philippines for the Street Child World Cup. For more information or to ask about corporate sponsorship packages email FFA at firstname.lastname@example.org