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Tournament kicks positive change into players’ lives

 The Big Issue South Africa 31 October 2019

Proving they are no sore losers, the South African Homeless World Cup squad apply the lessons learnt on the pitch to their lives off it. The legcy of the 'other' world cup is still being felt. (391 Words) - By Ayanda Nkqaki

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South African Homeless World Cup team members practice. Credit: Retha Ferguson/The Big Issue SA

The 2011 Homeless World Cup trophy may have gone to Scotland but the South African team have returned from the tournament in Paris with a prize of their own: a boost of self-confidence and an infectious enthusiasm for soccer and life.

Through soccer, the players have been led away from the rough streets of Cape Town and towards positive change by pursuing their dreams with fierce determination.

As team member Ayanda Nkqaki put it, the tournament has placed him firmly "back on track".

"It made me realise that it doesn't matter what happened before, if you have the opportunity to prove yourself and reach your dreams, it will make you realise your value in life," said Nkqayi, who participated in both the 2010 and 2011 Homeless World Cup.

Fellow player Vusumzi Shu Shu also returned inspired by the tournament. Although he has no plans to return to what he calls his "old ways", Shu Shu admitted he is fearful that the euphoria and good intentions created by the tournament will dissipate now that the team is back on home soil. However, he's determined to work towards his goals now that "things are falling into place".

Another player who has turned his life around through the tournament is assistant coach and former player Lukhanyo Mjoka. Since becoming involved in the team he has devoted his skills to uplifting youth through coaching and life-skills training at the Oasis Centre.

"It's important to give back, someone has to do it. It's about being guided and not only about football. What you learn on the field, you can implement in life," said Mjoka.

Aside from proudly representing South Africa in Paris, the team said they also gained insight into the plight of other homeless and marginalised people abroad.

"It was a real eye-opener to be out of the country," said team player Tyrone Andrews. "I've never been out of the country before, but being in Abu Dhabi [during a stopover], for example, I thought we had it bad in South Africa but there are people worse off out there. It made me appreciate the little things."

For Coach Ricardo de Reuck, the most rewarding aspect of being involved with the Homeless World Cup has been witnessing the growth of the young men. De Reuck has now committed to working with the team beyond the tournament.

* View images from the 2011 Homeless World Cup on www.bigissue.org.za

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