The Tanzania Girls’ shine at Street Child World Cup 2018 in Moscow

More than 200 young people from across the world headed for Sapsan Arena, Moscow in advance of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup to play football and speak out on street children’s rights.

The just concluded Street Child World Cup themed: “The Future Depends on You” saw Brazil win the girls’ cup with Tanzania coming in second place, while Uzbekistan won the boys cup putting Pakistan in second place.

The Street Child World Cup is a global movement for street children to receive the protection and opportunities that all children are entitled to with the aim to challenge the negative perceptions and treatment of street children around the world. Since its inception in 2010, the competition has acted as a springboard for street children to speak out on rights and work with other vulnerable teenagers. The players are all either homeless, have spent time living on the streets or are considered at risk of doing so.

“Every child should be able to realize their full potential, regardless their background,” CEO and co-founder John Wroe said at a global summit on children’s rights where the event was announced.

This year’s event united street children from across five continents to play football and unite in a unique international conference. 24 teams across 21 countries comprised the entrants for the tournament, including from Tajikistan, Belarus, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, Egypt, England, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda, USA and Zimbabwe.

“When we left we couldn’t believe we could reach this level and we’re so glad we got this far in the tournament,” said Asteria Robert according to OkayAfrica. The 14-year-old captain of the Tanzanian girls’ football team led her team, aged 14-17, on to the podium to receive medals and a trophy for coming in second place for the girls’ cup.

The Tanzanian girls, cheered on by teenagers from across the world, banging drums and waving the Tanzanian flag, were finally defeated 1-0 by a team from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They played against teams from Bolivia, Brazil, England, Kazakhstan, India, Mauritius, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia and the United States.

In the boys’ competition, teams from Burundi and Kenya played against teams from Belarus, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan. Burundi made it to the semi-final, but were eventually defeated by Pakistan.

“This has been a great opportunity because apart from the football we have been able to build relationships with children from other countries, exchange ideas and share culture,” said Roberts. The team had been training hard for months with the TSC Sports Academy, which is run by the Chaka Sana Foundation.

Tanzania and USA street children football teams pose for a photo after the match. Credit: Moil Company

The Chaka Sana Tanzania (CST) runs a daily centre, who help children off the street and reintegrate them with their families. They work to give these children a secure environment and make them feel safe. In 2009, they established the Tanzanian Street Children Sports Academy, aimed at providing vulnerable children in the community with access to sports, as well as providing street children with basic support and access to healthy activities.

“We value ourselves, we know who are and we know our worth, this which enables us to do anything we set our minds to.” says another team member, Zulfa John.

This is the third time that Tanzania’s team is competing in the Street Child World Cup. The inaugural event took place in Durban, South Africa, in March 2010, with Tanzania, featuring boys’ team, finishing third. The second Street Child World Cup was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 27, 2014, with Tanzania beating the rest of the participating teams to the trophy.

The 2018 games were streamed live on Goal, with 122,000 people tuning in to watch. And the event culminated the next day with a presentation of a unified message to the world at the General Assembly. The message is the result of a festival of arts and Congress that has provided the young people the chance to share their experiences, explore their rights and discuss their hopes for the future.

Over the course of the event, young people from across the world have formed friendships and shared their cultures as they have come together to campaign for their rights.