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2006 FIFA World Cup

Football helps Nene, 12, cope with street violence in Angola

© UNICEF Video
Nene, 12, lives in one of Angola’s poorest and most dangerous areas.

By Jonathan Schienberg

For the 2006 FIFA World Cup, UNICEF and FIFA are campaigning to ensure a more peaceful world for children. This is a profile of one of Team UNICEF's star players.

NEW YORK, USA – Roque Santerio is the main market in Luanda, the capital of Angola, and one of the poorest and most dangerous places in the world. Locals claim it is the biggest market in all of Africa, and while that is open to debate, few doubt its reputation as an epicentre of crime.

The market is strewn with mounds of rubbish, raw sewage and rotting food. It is overrun with orphaned street children who are frequently harassed by drug dealers and gangs. A 12-year-old runaway who goes by the nickname Nene lives here.

Nene’s father died when he was little. He ran away from his mother’s home two years ago.

“If you come here at night you would probably have everything you own stolen from you – including all of your clothes – and you might even be killed,” says UNICEF Representative in Angola Jose Marie Mendoca. “It is very dangerous here. Very, very dangerous.”
Along with some of the other children who live on the streets, Nene is now enrolled in a UNICEF-supported programme that provides children with basic educational tools and a chance to play football.

© UNICEF Video
Football provides enjoyment in an existence surrounded by violence for the 12-year-old runaway.

‘My life has changed’

Angola has the second highest child-mortality rate in the entire world. The goal Nene and thousands of other street children in Angola share is just to stay alive. Nene’s inspiration and source of hope is football.

“I feel well when I play football,” he says. “My life has changed because now I play football and go to school. I like to play, because football is a good thing. I just like to run around and move my legs.”

At such a young age, Nene has dealt with many traumas in his life. He has seen friends killed and has to steal food and water just to survive. He has no family to look after him.

“Yes, I do miss my family, but my mom does come to visit me sometimes,” he says.

Nowadays, Nene says all he wants to do is play football whenever he can. Every day, he comes to the church playground where UNICEF sponsors football practice and matches. The game has given him some focus in his life and has even served as a bridge towards education.

“I like football and school, and learning how to read. Now I know how to read and write,” says Nene with a smile, his attention focused entirely on his friends playing football.



Video and audio

UNICEF’s Jonathan Schienberg reports on Nene, a 12-year-old runaway who is in a UNICEF-supported sport and education programme in Angola.
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