Casa Alianza Mexico Girls Win Soccer Match in Russia!
Soccer is Eva’s favorite pastime. The 14-year-old goalkeeper from El Salvador says she loves the sport because it requires discipline, playing by the rules, and teamwork. Without them, she says, “You can’t even think about winning!”
And winning was just what Eva and her six teammates from Casa Alianza Mexico—Covenant House Mexico—had on their minds when they traveled nearly 7,000 miles to participate in the 2018 Street Child World Cup: The Future Depends on You.
The tournament played out in Russia from May 11 to 17, just before the world turned its gaze to that country for the start of the FIFA World Cup. Founded in 2010, this was the third Street Child World Cup—and the first for the Casa Alianza Mexico girls team! They represented not only Casa Alianza but all of Mexico in the international games, and the fruits of their participation far surpassed the final scores.“Participating in the tournament, our girls grew in every way. They were empowered by the knowledge that they’re worthy of a happy life and grew in self-assurance, self-esteem, and self-understanding,” says Roberto Guerrero Reyes, program director for Casa Alianza Mexico.
The tournament brought together more than 200 girls and boys impacted by homelessness in 24 countries around the world, from Mexico to Mauritius, Egypt to Belarus. While the games were the main event—with 12 girls teams and 12 boys teams—the youth, ages 10 and up, also participated in a general assembly and a festival of arts, where they expressed themselves creatively and advocated for the rights of all children.
For the Casa Alianza Mexico team it was an incredible experience centered in a sport that has challenged them, helped them to build friendships and work collaboratively, and offered them an outlet for dealing with the trauma of homelessness.
But playing the sport they love in a faraway land was probably the last thing any of these young girls would have believed they’d be doing this spring. Most had only arrived at Casa Alianza three to four months earlier, having fled to the streets from abusive homes or broken family relationships.
“I like being on the soccer team because when I run and play, I clear my head of sadness and worry,” says Samara, 14, who came to Casa Alianza in February. “And when I play soccer, I relate differently to my teammates. I get to know them better, and we work as a team, and it’s a lot of fun.”
For Mariana, also 14, her lifelong dream was to be part of a soccer team. She had lived “a long time” on the streets and spent nine months in a detox center.” She says being at Casa Alianza “has given me a lot of opportunities,” including the chance to play in an international tournament. “I’d like to get to know other parts of the world,” she says.
Sandra is a 16-year-old midfielder for the team. For her, soccer is an “exciting sport that fills you with adrenaline.” She was pumped to participate in the tournament, she says, because “I can make new friends, compete in a healthy way, and visit new places. It’s a great opportunity for me and a huge step forward in my life.”
Sandra also was a speaker during the general assembly that followed the tournament and gave voice to her team’s concerns. She called on government officials to “believe in us, support us, accompany us, guide us, and help us to raise our voices…. We are Mexico’s children, and it’s time to change our story!”
Roberto Guerrero Reyes underscores, “For Casa Alianza, our girls’ participation in the 2018 Street Child World Cup was an opportunity to see them flourish on various platforms, from sports, to the arts, to advocacy. And it was a visible testament to the growth of our foundation, which only makes sense, given how Mexico unfortunately suffers in terms of the rights of children and teens.”At the tournament’s end it was the girls’ team from Brazil who took home the trophy. But as they ascended the steps to the plane that would take them back to Mexico City, the girls team of Casa Alianza Mexico knew they, too, were proud winners!