Qualifying for the biggest football spectacle, the World Cup, is a daunting task for the Philippine national men’s football team.
But for a bunch of homeless kids representing the Philippines, qualifying for the 2012 Homeless World Cup in Mexico in October is not a problem. Getting there, however, is a different story.
“Wala kaming single centavo to go to Mexico,” said coach Rudy del Rosario, also a former national team member. “Wala pa talaga kaming pondo.”
Money has always been a problem for the team, which always struggles to finance its trip to the annual tournament. After all, it is hard to lure sponsorships for teams participating in an event such as the Homeless World Cup. Unlike the regular World Cup. where football superstars around the world compete in globally televised matches, the Homeless World Cup features orphans, street dwellers and children without homes who struggle to survive everyday life.
In the past, this hasn’t prevented the team from competing — and even excelling in the tournament. After joining for the first time in 2008, the Philippines finished 26th out of the 69 nations in the 2012 tournament.
The results of the competition go beyond the pitch. A study conducted after the 2007 edition in Copenhagen, Denmark, found out that 93 percent out of the 381 homeless participants declared that they had a new motivation in life, 29 percent found regular jobs, and 38 percent improved their housing situations. Over 100 children also addressed their drug or alcohol dependencies.
Members of the Philippine team has not been spared of this kind of positive impact. Mark Maravilla, a member of the 2010 squad, will take over the coaching duties for del Rosario in October. His brother and fellow 2010 member Lexter Maravilla played with United Football League champion Global FC this season, while other former HWC participants like Janrick Soriano, Abdula and Hammid Pasion, Revect Lagarto, Leopoldo Aragon and Mark Rosales have also seen action in the United Football League.
Del Rosario has been busy trying to raise funds to help the team for this year’s campaign. Recently, Jeepney FC, the football club he organized for current and former members of the team as well as other street children, played in a friendly match at the Manila Polo Club two weeks ago as part of the Philippine Spanish-friendship day.
It was a way of trying to find sponsors and donors for the team. “I asked for a donation from the organizers but I still have not heard from them since the friendly,” he said.
Aside from the lack of funds, the team also faces another problem. Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation, Inc., the group the originally organized the team, elected a new set of officers this year, which delayed the squad’s process of picking its members. The Homeless World Cup decrees that new players represent each country this year, so del Rosario and his crew conducts multiple tryouts all over the nation annually to find new players.
“Dati three months before, meron na kaming team,” del Rosario said. “We have to start again from scratch.”
But the clock is ticking. As much as the team may want to participate in the prestigious event, things are not going their way. Del Rosario said the group will decide on July 31 if they would still pursue playing this year.
For del Rosario personally, he has no problems about skipping the tournament. After all, the team can still join next year, which could help them prepare better. But he feels sorry for homeless kids whose lives could have be changed this year.
“Sayang naman,” he said. “Opportunity rin ito that we must not waste.”
To help the Philippine team to the 2012 Homeless World Cup, visit www.streetsoccerphilippines.com for more details.
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