When Sopna Akter walked on to the hallowed turf at Lords for the Street Child Cricket World Cup, it was the culmination of an incredible journey from the streets of Bangladesh.
The 16-year-old was one of the street-connected kids aged 13-17 from Bangladesh, England, India, Mauritius, Nepal, Tanzania and West Indies who gathered at the home of cricket for the inaugural tournament.
But it was far from a straightforward journey for any of them.
Sopna needed the chief executive of LEEDO in Dhaka, Forhad Hossain, to selflessly take legal guardianship of her and the other players on her team just so they could obtain the identity documents and passports to play.
In this week’s Big Issue, you can read her remarkable story, told in her own words, of what it means to be involved in the Street Child Cricket World Cup:
“Everybody loves cricket in Bangladesh. Until a few years ago it was hard for girls to play but now that is changing. Girls always had to be inside but things are different now. I am here because a worker from LEEDO found me on the streets in Dhaka and brought me to the shelter. My parents were very poor and my father had a heart problem so he couldn’t work.
“When I was 12 they wanted to marry me off. But I wanted to be a doctor and so I ran away to Dhaka. A lot of girls on the streets are fleeing early marriage, as well as sexual abuse and violence. But the streets are not safe. My real father now is Forhad [Hossain] because he helped me and got me an identity document, which is proof of my age and protects me from marriage.
“I don’t have any contact with my parents now but if I get a good job I will go and find them. Maybe they will accept me then.”
For more on the Street Child Cricket World Cup, buy this week’s Big Issue magazine, available from vendors and The Big Issue Shop now.