By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With so much focus on the FIFA 2014 World Cup in June and July 2014, a second football (soccer) tournament held that year is aiming to leave a completely different kind of legacy than the mega-million dollar spectacle. The NGO non-profit Street Child World Cup (SCWC), which will take place throughout two weeks from March 28th until April 7, 2014, aims to give children on the street a chance for a better life through football.
Joe Hewitt, one of the chief organizers for SCWC, was in Rio de Janeiro last week, where the entire event will be held, as the tournament begins to take shape.
Hewitt was in the Cidade Maravilhosa to finalize some of the logistics for the cup. Having looked at several locations, the LONIER sports facilities, in Barra da Tijuca, is the preferred location of the tournament.
As well as boasting first-class facilities, LONIER can also serve as the sleeping and living quarters for the children. In addition, Flamengo legend Zico has a football academy close by, and Hewitt hopes to be able to take the youngsters along for a day at the legend’s training center for gifted footballers.
Hewitt told The Rio Times: “[LONIER] feels like a holiday camp. There are swimming pools and chapels as well as football pitches, and a space for barbecue. We will probably do a day trip with the kids and also take them to the site of the Candelaria massacre. The site signifies the hardship of what these children are suffering, and that’s what our aim is; to highlight their cause.”
Over forty teams applied to be a part of SCWC, and the tournament will include a girls’ competition. Brazil will field two sides, and this will most likely be a boys’ team made up of kids from Rio, and a girls’ team from Recife particularly focused on raising awareness of child sex trafficking.
Likely nations for March 2014 include Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Egypt. The Philippines will be looking to emulate their 2010 performance, when they beat Brazil and made national headlines back home, even being greeted upon their return by champion boxer Manny Pacquiao.
SCWC are also making important contacts off the pitch to help promote the charity. They recently signed a partnership deal with English Premiership club Queens Park Rangers.
Rangers chairman Tony Fernandes and president of Air Asia, will be sending some of his Premier League coaches to Tanzania in the new year and forging a partnership between the Asian teams and his club’s Asian contacts. If it proves successful, they will use Tanzanian pilot as a model to help children all over the world, helping SCWC to leave a legacy that stretches beyond a sole tournament.
With the competition around eighteen months away SCWC are still on the hunt for sponsorship to help make SCWC in Rio a success. Their global sponsor is iExplore, part of the German multinational travel company but further donations would be warmly welcomed.
“We want to work closely with the government as well, we’re not here to tread on any toes. The bottom line is to give kids a future, to put routine into these children’s lives,” Hewitt said.