The eldest of three children, Langeng (pictured above) came from a family that was too poor to send him to school. He was devastated and would likely have followed in his mother’s footsteps – sifting through garbage to find items to sell on the street – if not for the intervention of Cambodian Children’s Fund, which provided him with an education and enabled him to discover his passion for sport.
Langeng played for Team Cambodia in the 2014 Homeless World Cup in Santiago, Chile when he was 17. Afterwards, Langeng was promoted to the position of coach for the Under-14s team.
“I will return to the Homeless World Cup,” he says, “but this time as a coach with the next generation of players who will go there to change how they see themselves and who will change their lives for the better too.”
To escape her problems in Uganda, Zamu Nabwami arrived in the UK in 2015. After initially living in hostel accommodation in London, she was moved to Newport, South Wales. Zamu wanted to find a way to make friends in a new country and tackle her depression and loneliness. She saw an advert for Street Football Wales and, despite never having played football before, decided she had nothing to lose.
Zamu trained hard and her efforts were rewarded when she was picked to play for Wales in the 2016 women’s squad. Now 27 and living in her own flat in Newport, Zamu set up Street Football Wales’ first participant-led asylum-seeker squad. She’s secured a place to study a degree in nursing and has ambitions to become a paramedic.
The crowds at the 2016 Homeless World Cup in Glasgow were captivated by Eman Sulaeman’s heroics between the sticks for Indonesia. He doesn’t let the fact that he was born without feet hold him back.
“I love football so much. It has allowed me to overcome barriers such as discrimination, which I have faced since I was a child. I come from a poor family and have lived in poverty so it has been difficult for me. But I’ve always tried to do my best and learn how I can develop myself to overcome these problems. I can handle everything, because football has given me confidence in my life.”
Juliet was a member of the 2011 Homeless World Cup winning team from Kenya. Her father died when she was 10 and she and her five brothers were separated and moved in with relatives around Nairobi.
While training for the HWC, Juliet discovered Alive and Kicking, a social enterprise which produces high-quality, hand-stitched sports balls. They offered her a job as a stitcher. From her salary, Juliet pays for her younger brothers’ education and helps support two older brothers who are looking for work.
At the age of eight, Lukes Mjoka wandered into a train station in a suburb of Cape Town. Two men abducted him, forcing him to beg for money and live on the streets. Eventually, the men decided
that Lukes was of no further value to them and dropped him off at a shelter.
Lukes excelled at school but he was dragged into a life of violence and crime by his friends. He witnessed several shootings and was introduced to crystal meth, which he dealt in order to survive.
By sheer luck he bumped into a childhood friend who was volunteering with a homeless street soccer team. Lukes joined their football sessions and with a lot of hard work he was selected as captain of the team representing South Africa.
This was the beginning of a new life. He returned to South Africa and began working with the Oasis project, where he taught and helped other young marginalised people. He also lived in Brazil for six months, where he worked with the Fifa Football for Hope programme organising a mini World Cup for children when the main tournament was held there in 2014.
He now runs the Oasis programme in South Africa, helping young people who, like him, have been marginalised and neglected. He says: “Having good role models is essential for the life of every child.”
He is now one of those role models. “I can actually promise them that ‘a ball can change the world’!”