Street Children from Pakistan to Participate in Street Child Football World Cup Rio 2014
By: Fatima Shahryar
KARACHI, PAKISTAN, March 2014 – “Life is good as long as I can come here and practice football,” says Mehmood Alam (15). “I’m very excited and look forward to representing my country in front of the world and helping my team win the cup.” He is a member of the Pakistan street child football team being trained to participate in the upcoming Street Child World Cup (SCWC) 2014 scheduled to take place in Rio, Brazil. Sixteen countries will be participating in the tournament.
Adeel Rizki, the coach of the Karachi United Football Foundation identified Mehmood as a player with exceptional skills. He was called to the training camp and it didn’t take him long to impress one and all.
“Mehmood has been with us for a year and a half, he enjoys playing football and is quick to learn. Though he finds it difficult to focus on any other activity for long but while training or during a practice game, his concentration is remarkable.” Adeel Rizki, Coach
“Mehmood has been with us for a year and a half,” says Adeel Rizki. “He enjoys playing football and is quick to learn. Though he finds it difficult to focus on any other activity for long but while training or during a practice game, his concentration is remarkable. He has been doing tremendously well and is a strong contender team captain.”
Mehmood belongs to Orangi Town, Karachi – the biggest slum in Asia. His father was a labourer who worked on daily wages to feed his wife and six children. Three years ago, Mehmood’s father left his family for an undisclosed location and never returned. His mother started doing domestic work but could not raise enough money to feed the family.
With little to feed on at home, Mehmood practically lives on streets roaming around aimlessly. At times he does odd jobs in roadside hotels but doesn’t last in one place for long. His ability to communicate and share with others is extremely weak. With no education at all and a dysfunctional family, he finds it difficult to focus on any particular activity with the exception of playing football.
The Street Child Football team is a part of an overall initiative supported by UNICEF for social reintegration of children working and living on the streets. UNICEF’s implementing partner Azad Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, is implementing the programme in Karachi. It is for the first time that Pakistan will be participating in the street child World Cup Tournament. Azad Foundation partnered with the Karachi United Football Foundation to set up a football training camp wherein children representing different ethnic groups are being trained by professional coaches.
The children are also trained on communication skills and team building. They are being taught and trained to live together in harmony, resolve issues, and develop their life skills.
“It is important for them to learn to live and perform together as one team. All children are gifted and with little direction and guidance, they can put their capabilities to great use. " Muhammad Ata, trainer
“These children have to be taught and trained well,” says Muhammad Ata, the trainer. “It is important for them to learn to live and perform together as one team. All children are gifted and with little direction and guidance, they can put their capabilities to great use. Mehmood is one of the boys who have been most regular and are keen to learn and apply the life skill concepts both in the football field and in their personal lives.”
In order to provide different types of technical support to the Street Child Football Team Pakistan, a Technical Advisory Group has been formed which includes representatives from Social Welfare Department Government of Sindh, UNICEF, Azad Foundation and other private sector organizations. The group will continue to work together to support a post SCWC programme, linking sport with development and participation.
“It is very heartening to watch the children play as a team.” says Jabeen Fatima, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF. “They emit a positive energy despite all the difficulties they face in their daily lives. Upon their return they will not only be a great source of inspiration for their peers but will also play an instrumental role in highlighting their issues resulting in a concrete policy formulation.”