THE BLOG

The 'Other' World Cup

31/03/2014 12:12 BST | Updated 28/05/2014 10:59 BST

The FIFA World Cup kicks off in less than 80 days, and whilst I am inevitably excited at the hype of which high profile Premier League player will be left out of Roy Hodgson's squad, which key player will suffer an injury (let's hope it is not the metatarsal) in the 6 weeks before and which team it will be that England suffer their likely fate to on penalties, I am more excited about the World Cup which has kicked off this weekend, also in Rio.

Yet, the less high profile (although various footballing legends have put their names to the campaign David Beckham, Sir Alex Ferguson), the Street Child World Cup has sadly received very little media coverage despite its phenomenal ambition.

Across the world millions of children live and work on the streets.

It is difficult to measure the exact number of street children in the world due to the nature of their existence; however some estimate that 100 million live could be living on the streets at any one time.

Whilst street children are physically visible, they are ignored by society, excluded from statistics and treated as a nuisance, even a danger. Yet street children are often some of the most vulnerable, hardest to reach children, denied access to education and health and exposed to significant dangers such as drug violence, human trafficking and rape.

Street children are not necessarily children who have been orphaned, they may have become street children as a result of domestic or sexual abuse. Others may have been forced to leave home due to economic pressures with the family unable to cope.

Others may simply leave home to work. Statistically, once leaving home girls are less likely to be reunited with their family.

Despite the pressures which have caused the children to leave home in the first place, once on the street, children are far more vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse, and become in much greater danger than the environment they left. In some cases street children have been harassed, beaten or even murdered by the police in a drive to "clean up the streets"; in other cases police have driven groups to areas outside the city where they can't be seen by tourists.

Every city in the world has some street children, including the biggest and richest cities in the developed world as well as the poorest areas.

No child should live on the streets, regardless of the a country's GDP and as children they deserve the right to be treated as equals under the UN convention for the rights of a child, where they have a "right to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential."

The Street Child World Cup fulfils this vision and is a global movement for street children to receive the protection and opportunities that all children are entitled to.

It is a campaign which is utilising the empowerment of football and arts based events to bring some of the most vulnerable children from across the world together.

It is challenging the stigma that street children receive and giving them a voice in society. One of the images that really struck me was the teams jetting off, as for nearly all the children the access to a Passport was their first proof of existence.

The project from 2010 has an outstanding legacy with significant progress made in the host area of Umthombo, Durban, where police are now working with, not against the hosts. Several children have gone on to university, with one child studying criminology inspired by the work of the programme. Another has gone on to work in journalism; a motivation from the community events which had circulated the 2010 Street Child World Cup.

Despite having the largest economy in South America, with 1/3 of Brazil's population living in slums or favelas and 30 million people living in absolute poverty Brazil is home to a significant number of street children. Rio does have a mountain to climb to reach similar heights to Umthombo, but it is confident ahead of kick off.

The Street Child World Cup has competing boys and girls teams, it kicks off on Sunday 30th March in Rio, but unlike this Summer's event, it is the taking part that really does count as every single child participating has had a journey to get there and is already a winner.

And whilst lifting the trophy will sit with them for the rest of their lives, the ultimate winner is the legacy of the project when each team returns.

You can tweet #Iamsomebody #streetchildworldcup to help raise awareness of this fantastic initiative.

Better still why not DONATE and help support the initiative as it reaches out to transform more lives.