Thousands of words have been written to describe the power of football to reach a greater audience. Now eight men from Indonesia are about to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience to change their lives by taking part in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico City which kicks off this Saturday 6 October.
Not content with bringing the messages of the Homeless World Cup to the ears of the world, the team, five of whom are HIV positive, warmed up for the big event by tackling stigma in their own country through a 24-hour footballathon.
On a modest pitch under the Pasoepati flyover, the squad challenged 75 teams to 14 minute matches back-to-back.
LEAGUE OF CHANGE
The team, the coach and manager were all selected in February through Rumah Cemara’s national street football tournament – League of Change. Hundreds came to witness the strength of these ten ‘average’ men as they embarked on their 24 hours of football.
It was Ginan Koesmayadi, best player of the 2011 Homeless World Cup in Paris, who kicked off what was to become the most uplifting and memorable event not only for Rumah Cemara but for the many spectators. Indonesia Raya, Indonesia’s proud national anthem, provided the background for the opening and it was then that the story began.
Taking the tournament very seriously, 75 teams lined up to challenge the new heroes of Indonesia. From spontaneous football teams to community teams made up of local and international football fans, underground musicians, university students, young people, children, women, transgenders and professional footballers, a huge range of people lined up to take on the players.
The national team barely had time to rest and could only rely on their rolling strategy during the call to prayer breaks. Medical teams of university volunteers were prepared, along with one masseur, to help the players along. The event caught many people’s attention, not just the media but also government officials and local footballing legends.
IN FOOTBALL WE ARE EQUAL
The squad had pledged to undertake the football marathon in return for Rumah Cemara’s successful fundraising efforts which covered 80% of the total cost required to send the team to Mexico. This promise resulted in one of the most successful social inclusion events in our organisation’s history. Different communities and neighbourhoods worked hand in hand to make the event happen with no distinction between people living with HIV or people who use drugs, with no issues of politics, religion or race – just unity. It was, in fact, a form of social justice for all Indonesian people – in football we are equal.
For the team, it was the longest 24 hours in their lives. Through the power of the universe, the bright sun, the light of the moon, the ball had to keep moving. It was not just their oath that caused them to keep playing – it was their expression of gratitude to the universe for giving them the chance to change their lives.
Under the flyover, on that football pitch, stigma and discrimination against HIV, AIDS, drug addiction and marginalised communities no longer existed. By the end of the 24 hours the team had faced hundreds of people. But they stood strong. They believed in themselves and in each other. The mission was accomplished. The ten men had conquered, not only hundreds of challengers, but they also learned to become selfless human beings through football.
“Most of us have lived in the darkest place in our lives, but often, the brightest light comes from the darkest place.” – Ginan Koesmayadi
Beating stigma through football: Rumah Cemara were among the participants in the first ‘Football Fighting Back’ project, a joint initiative of Albion in the Community (the charitable arm of Brighton & Hove Albion FC) and the Alliance.
The second event saw the event move to Kenya. Read more.