By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Street Child World Cup (SCWC) is due to start in a little over a week’s time in Rio de Janeiro with the intention of aiding the most vulnerable members of global society. The aim of the competition is to unite under-privileged children through sport, while getting their message across that no child should have to live on the streets in the 21st century.
Director of Communications Joe Hewitt sat down to speak exclusively with The Rio Times yesterday (Tuesday) to discuss the progress made in 2014 and the event’s big kick-off. A press conference at Laranjeiras headquarters of Fluminense announced an official partnership between the two bodies.
Mr. Hewitt said, “230 former street children, aged 14 to 17, are coming to Rio from nineteen countries to take part in SCWC. Besides football there will be an arts festival and a conference on children’s rights.”
“The tournament is about much more than simply sport, as explained by Mr. Hewitt, “The opening and closing ceremonies will be like a cultural exchange. […] Each nation will present typical national clothing. There will be music, dance theater. It’s going to be like a mini Carnival.”
The opening ceremony is due to take place on Sunday, March 30th. The following day will include a visit to the iconic Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor), one of the seven modern wonders of the world, and of course the world famous Maracanã Stadium.
April 1st and 2nd will see tournament games take place in the Vidigal favela above Leblon. April 6th, the day of the competition’s final, will be played at Laranjeiras, home of Fluminense, where the Brazilian national team have also played matches.
To make a partnership with such a major force in Brazilian football speaks volumes about the progress the charity has made in Rio de Janeiro. The efforts of the SCWC team has meant that the charity will be long after the FIFA World Cup has left Brazil.
“We are going to be a permanent fixture now in Rio. We have set up a charity called Street Child United,” Hewitt said. Now the group can start to tackle their objectives in the long term. “Our aim in Rio is to give our partners a platform,” he adds.
“With the right protection, rehabilitation and opportunities, no child should have to live on the streets. We are helping to tell their story. Children belong to society.”
SCWC is using football as a means to an end. Their reach goes far beyond the white lines and looks to touch those most vulnerable in society. “Football is a way of engaging children. It gives them a platform they’ve never previously had,” Hewitt explains.
With the help of SCWC and their partners across Brazil, including the “Crianca não é da rua” program in Fortaleza, those often forgotten are being given a voice through one of the most beloved pastimes on the planet: football. It is a far cry from the glamor FIFA, world football’s governing body, has become accustomed to. Yet the work of SCWC reaches those on the outside, and brings them in, as football (soccer) really can be a global language.
The participating nations in the SCWC are: El Salvador, U.S., Zimbabwe, Argentina, England, Mozambique, Nicaragua, South Africa, Burundi, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Liberia, Brazil, Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, Philippines.