The Road to Qatar
As the footballing world gears up for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the teams for the Street Child World Cup (SCWC) are pushing themselves harder than ever. The tournament, taking place from 5th October, with 28 teams from 24 countries. This SCWC will be the fourth tournament after South Africa in 2010, Brazil in 2014 and Russia in 2018. It uses the platform of the World Cup, along with supportive celebrities, to raise awareness of the plight of street-connected children around the world.
The New Generation Football team is made up of teenage boys who are, or were, street-connected children. This means they either lived on the streets, or spent much of their time out of school, away from home with no opportunities and, often, little hope. The work of New Generation Burundi is focused on rehabilitating, educating, restoring and releasing such children from the grip of poverty and oppression.
Sport is often a passion of these young people, and so the New Generation football team regularly plays matches around Burundi. But the SCWC is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play on an international stage. Most of the team have had to apply for passports because they have never left the country before!
The New Generation team has enjoyed previous success in this tournament, reaching the final in Brazil 2014 and the semi-finals in Moscow 2018. When they returned home each time, they were given a hero’s welcome, and even got the opportunity to meet the president! They are hoping their hard work this year will take them all the way to the trophy.
These are some of the experiences of boys on the team…
“One of the many things I remember, and one I won’t forget is the day my parent told me face to face, ‘We are giving up on you. If we see you here again we’ll kill you.'”
“New Generation protect me from so many things. Before, I was a thief, I used to do drugs and some cigarettes but they enabled me to feel like a real man who has a hope for the future.”
“When I arrived at New Generation I was nine years old, without any hope for the future. I couldn’t imagine that one day I’d grow up to become someone who is helping others. New Generation helped me by sending me back to school. They also encouraged me in my talent of playing football. I can see some improvement!”
“I want to develop my talent of playing football, but the most important thing is to advocate for children who are still on the street.”
What a privilege and opportunity for these once-hopeless young men to represent their nation on a global stage! Football is just one aspect of the multifaceted work of New Generation Burundi as continue their tireless work to bring hope to street-connected children.