Some of them are day labourers, some work in tea gardens for a pittance, some are from the remotest hill areas, some are physically challenged and some continue their studies defying all odds. They have one thing in common—they don’t have safe homes to live.
Another common thing among the band is they are dreaming to represent Bangladesh for the first time in the next Homeless World Cup scheduled to be held in California, USA on 6-15 July.
Their world cup mission formally started through an exhibition match at Dhaka University central field on Friday morning. Bangladesh Homeless World Cup team beat a team of DU students in the friendly by tie-breaker after the match ended in 2-2 deadlock.
Md Nayan Mia of the homeless world cup team scored first goal from a header in the first half. DU took a 2-1 lead as Zilanur Rashid and Muhibullah Rafi scored two goals. Prenchong Mro scored a spectacular last-minute eqaliser for his team.
Sports for Hope and Independence (SHI) has formed a primary team of 25-men culled by talent hunts and own support group from Bagerhat, Satkhira, Bandarban, Moulvibazar, Kishoreganj and Kushtia region. Eight of them would go to the 18th edition of the world cup after receiving trainings. Homeless World Cup Foundation, a social organisation which advocates the end of homelessness through the sport, organizes the event.
Prenchong Mro, a resident of Bandarban and a student of physical education and sports science department of Chattogram University, was exuberant to get chance in the preliminary squad.
“I’m excited and hope to be picked up for the final squad so that I represent my country in a global event,” Prenchong told Prothom Alo.
Prenchong, who holds Guinness World Record for most football toe taps in one minute, wants to inspire underprivileged Mro community by representing Bangladesh in the homeless world cup.
Emon Chasa, 19, from Srimangal said his parents are Icchamati tea garden workers of the upazila.
Emon could not continue his studies after SSC but and now rears two cows at his home. He dreams of getting a chance in the final squad and wants to represent the country in the global tournament.
SHI’s founder and CEO Sharmin Farhana said the team is made of players who do not have secure homes.
A total of 48 men teams and 16 women teams will participate in this year’s event, she added.
Farhana said one of the goals of the exhibition match is to pay tribute to football legend Pele who won the hearts of millions around the world despite coming from a lowly background.
Former chairman of Bangladesh Human Rights Commission Professor Mizanur Rahman handed over the medals and trophy to the participants.
He said alongside studies, the right to play is also a human right but the space to play has shrunk gradually in the country.
“The playgrounds are gradually shrinking and the schools are being confined to walls without open spaces. The government must take steps to ensure every educational institute has open playground,” he added.
He appreciated the SHI’s effort for sending a team to the world cup and congratulated the footballers for being selected in the squad.