Members Area

Liam MacDevitt Street Child World Cup Blog: Day Three

The Street Child World Cup finally kicked off today!

The Street Child World Cup finally kicked off today in the 10,000 seater Sapsan Arena, with an opening ceremony bringing all 21 countries together.

With over 100 Russian press in attendance, and VIPs including Russian international Alexey Smarten, the young people got a small glimpse of just how far their voices could reach.

After music performances, some confetti cannons and the official draw. And the first football of the tournament - an exhibition match between previous hosts Brazil and current hosts Russia. With the other teams supporting, a Brazilian header and a Russian screamer from the halfway line meant the game finished 1-1. 

However, what topped the halfway line strike - and the pandemonium that quickly ensued - as the highlight of my day was the unifying ability of a football. The Pakistan boys team were playing with the Kenyan and Burundi boys and girls teams, with only one mutual language - football. 

The teams then had an opportunity to train, and the competitive spirit quickly returned.

The global reach of football has huge potential to change the lives of these young people. I was fortunate enough to interview Tanzania girls captain Yasinta for BBC Africa, who said:

“We are representing Tanzania but also the children who are not here. We want to make them proud and help the problems for children in my country.”

Some of the children here have been at risk from sex trafficking, drug smuggling, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, to name just a few of the extraordinary obstacles they have overcome to be here.

Along with all of the teams, tonight we attending a reception at the British Ambassador's residence where these young people will have the opportunity to raise some of the issues that affect them and thousands of others in similar circumstances.

Over the next few days, the focus will shift to the football tournament, and the teams will have an opportunity to win a World Cup to take home, but the hope here is that they will also leave Moscow with something even more meaningful - a sense of empowerment and optimism.