Oh sure, I still have that little FIFA affair to look forward to later this summer, but I only just found out about the Street Child World Cup taking place in Durban, South Africa, and today is the final match.
All week long co-ed teams of street kids from eight different countries have been battling it out on the pitch in an attempt to earn the Cup. Let me pause here for a minute. Co-ed teams. Girls and boys are playing together. There is a lot to like about this event – empowerment through sport, awareness-raising, and yet another example of the power of play – but I think the most revolutionary element here may be the simple decision not to separate the kids by gender. The differences, real or perceived, between boys and girls are so frequently highlighted, debated, and commented upon, that children end up, by the force of our shared cultural lexicons, being sucked into a hurricane of competition. Who’s stronger, faster, smarter? Who’s better? As someone who plays in a co-ed league by choice, I can say with unconditional conviction that it is a good thing, a brave thing, and a revolutionary thing to learn to share the space with each other. We have so much to offer each other, and what better way than by choosing to be teammates? Bravo, Street Child World Cup!
So anyway. This past week eight teams have competed and today’s final match sees Tanzania and India playing for the Cup. Do yourself a favour: check out the site. It’s well-designed and if you click back through the tabs for each day they’ve embedded videos with short films on such topics as “Welcome to Durban”, “Meet the Coaches”, “Reality of Street Life”, and “Art of the Street Child World Championship”. Oh yeah, didn’t I mention this? The program has an entire art component! I am seriously in love with this event.
The championship is the result of a partnership between a wide arrays of NGOs and volunteer groups, and is endorsed by some big names including legendary midfielder and hair syle visionary David Beckham, and Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. According to their site, the Cup was initiated by Amos Trust in response to the work done by Umthombo Street Children, “a unique South African street children organisation led predominantly by former street children. Umthombo aims to change the way that society perceives and treats street children through educating society as to the realities of the street child experience and through developing and implementing informed, working strategies to address the issue in South African cities.”
All football matches are played between 1400-1700 local time (1200-1500 GMT). To figure out when that is in your part of the world, visit this site.