is the Homeless World Cup?
The Homeless World Cup was cofounded in 2004 by Mel
Young. Using sports to help change lives, its main focus
is improving people’s lives more than winning
competitions. It doesn’t really matter if we win
or lose, what is more important is that we have bettered
the lives of young people we are working with.
you share about your involvement in the Homeless World
I became involved in the Homeless World Cup
in 2010 because I believed through this we could do
a lot of good for our less fortunate brothers. I came
in contact with Bill Shaw who started the Jeepney, the
first Street Magazine.
also founded the Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation.
Back in 2008 the Philippines first joined the Homeless
World Cup in Melbourne, Australia. That year we ranked
34th among the 48 participating countries.
Milan 2009, we ranked 29th, an improvement of 5 ranks.
Then I took over as director and coach of Street Soccer
Philippines and we played in Rio, Brazil, in 2010. We
improved and were ranked 25th place and even received
an extra bonus as we won one of the six trophies, which
was called the Host Cup.
I just want to stress that the point of the event is
not so much about winning the competition, but about
participating. All the teams signed up for the event,
whether they be the strongest or the weakest, have to
play the same number of games just like all other teams.
In France we played 13 games. In Rio we played 11 games.
is what is good about this event as we were playing
the same number of games with everyone until the last
day. In Paris 2011, we finished 24th. For me it was
an achievement as we had made a step ahead from the
bottom half and we were now among the top 24.
are the changes made by this program in the lives of
these young boys?
It’s amazing to see the change in these
players from the time we recruit them in the provinces
or in the slum areas to join the Philippine team. At
first they are so shy and lacking confidence in themselves,
but with training and after having represented the nation
in this international event, they are totally transformed,
full of confidence.
notices this when they are being interviewed on TV.
These are concrete examples of our reaching out to them
and seeing its effects on them.
Another factor is the aftercare program we offer them
because, as I said it doesn’t end with the competition.
we help them take advantage of opportunities in education
and employment or go ahead with their football career.
For example, one player got a job with one company who
partners with us. His dream was to go on to college,
but he had not yet finished high school. This company
where he works has partnered with a school so he can
now continue with his studies.
interesting story is that of Bert Seines. He was an
orphan in Manila Boystown. At the age of 10, he had
run away from home, and could not find his way back.
Then he was picked up by a social worker and sent to
Boystown. One relative saw him on TV as he was about
to compete for the Homeless World Cup in 2011.
informed his mother that she had seen her son on TV.
The family got in touch through our foundation. They
had a reunion after 8 years. It was a very emotional
and moving moment. Bert could no longer recognize his
mum, so his mother started to call him using her nickname
for him when he was still a very young boy and this
made him remember her. Good that they were able to reunite
as his mother passed away last January because of cancer.
Today he lives with his real relatives.
do you get your funding? For example, you’ll go
to Mexico this year (where the Homeless World Cup 2012
will be held this October)…
We are so non-commercial. We struggle every
year to come up with the funds. Somehow this interview
with you is good as you are helping us spread the word.
Right now we still have nothing. Yet I have always been
an optimist. If we have made it to Rio, Milan, and Paris
before, we can also make it this year to Mexico.
why invest on these trips instead of using the money
for the children’s studies?
They will never have the same kind of confidence if
they do not take part in this event because they are
representing the country. Besides, I tell them: “You
are representing the poor of your country. You have
to show others that poor people are no different.
got a heart and soul.” They are really different.
I have worked with players from different walks of life.When
a person comes from the slums or a poor neighborhood,
I see they are tougher, and they are not cry babies.
instance, in the Payatas dump site I saw many of these
kids after they fall down on the cement floors; they
get up again smiling as if nothing had happened. I’m
still hopeful that we will obtain the funds to go to
Mexico. This is why we are reaching out to a lot of
friends to help us so that people will come to know
about this very worthwhile cause.
a coach, how do you encourage your players to overcome
In Rio, my players were a little bit fearful
when we played with the Brazilians. I tried to encourage
my team, saying that we all have two hands and two feet
just like them. We are just the same. We should not
think that they are Brazilians, and therefore, good
at football. We lost in that game and I got angry with
my team because they had allowed their fear to overcome
them. I told them that I can teach them all the soccer
skills, but, to overcome fear, you have to overcome
it yourself, focusing on the game and knowing that you
have worked hard for it. And be aware that the others
are also human. They don’t have three feet. We
are all equal.
is your attitude about losing? As a coach, how do you
really depends on the situation. When my team loses
because they haven’t tried hard enough and I know
they could have done better, then I got angry. But when
I see the players giving their best and still lose in
the end, it doesn’t matter to me, because they
had given their best. We have a nice tradition in the
Homeless World Cup: win or lose after the game you hold
hands with the other team and you run to the crowd to
acknowledge their cheers. So after the game we are all
smiles as we face the crowd and thank them even if we
do you have such a passion for this job?
I am very close to these kids because I can relate to
them. I had a troubled life myself, having been into
drugs and alcohol in my youth. I went to rehab in 1999.
I was sleeping on the streets and sidewalks because
I was too drunk or under the influence of drugs. Helping
these kids today is also helping me. I am a person who
made mistakes in the past, and I’m grateful for
this sports which has also saved my life.
do you envision for the future?
I am always dreaming that we will be hosting the Homeless
World Cup, so that more Filipinos will know about it.
I am hoping that more people will find out about this
because it is really helpful in bringing back dignity
to the lives of poor kids. I also see the players who
have participated in the program one day running the
show themselves as a way of giving something back. Then
there are the other grassroots programs where coaches
will be teaching street soccer in the poor areas and
this is also happening right now.
last words which you want to share with us?
Sometimes people lose hope. They think they cannot do
anything worthwhile in life. That’s why this program
is important because once people see change happening
in their lives, they will be inspired to work to improve
their lives. Actually I’m very happy to have lived
these moments in my life and see football growing in
popularity in our country. It’s a dream I had
since my high school days to see football fans grow.
Yet above all, it’s really about winning in life
more than winning in these games. This is the thing
that we want to share with them.
by Jose Aranas