Moscow will host the ‘Street Child World Cup: The Future Depends on You’ football tournament in May next year, ahead of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The tournament, organized by Street Child United in partnership with Russian telecoms operator Megafon, will be contested by teams of orphanages with both a girls and boys team representing Russia as host nation.
“Every child should be able to realize their full potential, regardless their background,” CEO and co-founder John Wroe said at a global summit on children’s rights where the event was announced.
“On the eve of the FIFA World Cup, we will level the playing field for some of the most marginalized children,” Wroe added.
Twenty-four national teams will the comprise the entrants for the tournament, including from Tajikistan, Belarus, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, Egypt, England, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda, USA and Zimbabwe.
“The football tournament will bring together orphans and street-connected children to play on and unite off the field for the rights of all children at risk,” Street Child United explains on its website.
The organization outlines its goal as to tackle the dangers and stigma faced by street-connected children – a term which refers to children who are either living on the streets or have done – and provide them with opportunities “to realize their potential.”
The World Cup project has been met with approval from a string of famous names including Pope Francis, Pele, Prince William, David Beckham, Lionel Messi and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson praised the initiative for providing “a level playing field” for street children and orphans, which the UN estimates at around 150 million worldwide.
“The Street Child World Cup is at the heart of football, providing a level playing field to street children who have for too long been marginalized,” said Ferguson, who was the longest-serving manager in Manchester United’s history.
“I look forward to following the Street Child World Cup in 2018 when each young person, no matter their background, will tell the world: I am Somebody,” he added.
During his tenure at United, Ferguson signed Portuguese winger Bebe, who notably was homeless during his youth and played in the European Street Football Festival in 2009 before embarking on a football career.
Since 2005, Megafon has organized the annual national “The Future Depends on You” football competition among teams of orphanages, engaging more than 30,000 children in 140 cities.
In 2014, the Street Child World Cup ran concurrently with the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro in which 230 children took part. Tanzania won the 10-day tournament that year, defeating Burundi 3-1 in the final.