This might come as a surprise to some, but when we first learnt about the Homeless World Cup, we found the whole idea kinda, well, ludicrous. Why spend all that money on a bunch of losers? Why not use it so they can find… HOMES instead?
We learnt we knew nothing at all.
We learnt that anyone could be homeless – all it took was a run of bad luck or a bout of illness, or just some poor decisions. We learnt that many homeless people had jobs; that they even had families and children. We learnt that the homeless could be generous or grasping. They could be hardworking or lazy. Young or old. Highly educated or completely illiterate. They could be many many things. We learnt that homelessness was a complex issue. And we learnt that the best way to help, was to start by being non-judgemental.
Which is why the Homeless World Cup is such an amazing event. Because what it does is it gives the homeless a chance to prove themselves. It compels them to reach further, try harder. To learn to win. And to accept defeat with grace.
Post-South Africa, no one from the Dawn Team could envision going back to a life on the streets. They had caught a glimpse of the world outside Shamshuipo. An amazing world, so full of possibilities. And they returned home determined to do better for themselves. Why be a loser when you could be so much more?
During a recent trip to Hong Kong, we spent an uplifting Sunday morning with the Dawn Team. They were busy raising funds for this year’s Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. Four years after South Africa, it was good to see so many of them still playing football.
Here’s a photo of us with Wai Tung, the world’s most amazing social worker, and Ah Lung. Some of you might remember him from Homeless FC. Many of you have even written to ask what happened to him after South Africa. Well, he went back to school, graduated, found a job in a printing firm, moved into a condo, had a baby girl, made up with his father, and is now planning to start up a new business. Oh, and he still plays football. Yes, life is pretty good for Lung.
Singapore’s own homeless football team – Team Hope – is embarking on its own journey to the Homeless World Cup this year. We launched the project last October, and since then, there’ve been ups… and there’ve been downs. It all feels vaguely familiar, yet new and exciting.
Like the Dawn Team, some players are far easier to help than others. And we know that in the months ahead, there will be success stories, and there will inevitably be those that fall by the wayside.
Four years ago, we thought the idea of going to the World Cup ludicrous. Why not use the money to find the players HOMES instead? But we’re a little wiser today. We know that this journey will transform lives and give hope to those who need it the most. And if the Dawn Team’s experience is anything to go by, the ones who ultimately make it will return to inspire others to follow in their footsteps – to seize life… to make it good.