• Germany's news in English

Homeless cup: football with new goals

The Local · 23 Jun 2014, 12:19

Published: 22 Jun 2014 23:07 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Jun 2014 12:19 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Four-a-side street football is about tight passing and speedy reflexes. After all, with a pitch which measures 22 by 16 metres, it's a hard and fast game. But then, so is living rough.

“I sell a homeless magazine,” explained Christian from behind the goal where he was waiting to be substituted onto the pitch. “People completely ignore me and it makes me feel not I'm not worth anything.”

But football is different, he said.

The forty-four-year-old is captain of Ocker Beige Berlin, one of 22 teams which took part in the annual German Homeless Cup held this weekend in Karlsruhe. Some 200 homeless people, street paper vendors, addicts in rehab programs and asylum seekers travelled to Karlsruhe for the two-day national competition. 

Although he has an apartment now, Christian spent 13 years sleeping rough, a time when he said it was difficult keeping up friendships.

Most of all, he said he likes being part of the team and having a sense of camaraderie. “For me, that's more important than winning or losing.”

Zakari Shahadu, on the other hand, said he was deadly serious about winning. The goalkeeper for Hamburg's Jugend Hilft Jugend was in luck - his team, the defending champions from 2013, also took the title this year after a ferocious final.

A construction worker by trade, Shahadu left Ghana five years ago to work in Libya and suddenly found himself in the middle of a civil war. After a hazardous journey across the Mediterranean to Lampedusa he reached Hamburg, where he has no papers, no work and nothing to do – except play football.

Training with his homeless team brings him happiness, he said, because it gives him “a chance to laugh”.

The idea is to improve people's lives through football, said Katrin Kretschmer, event co-ordinator at organisers Anstoss!

“People in our projects can't just walk into a sports club and say, 'Hi, I want to play on your team',” she explained.

“The advantage of football compared to other sports is everyone knows how to play (or thinks they know how to play) and you only need a ball so it's easy.”

All the teams are part of social projects, which means members train and travel with social workers.

But players want to be seen as sportsmen, not as walking social problems. In October, eight players from the Karlsruhe cup will be selected to travel to Santiago for this year's Homeless World Cup, which has been held every year in a different country since 2003.

Unfortunately, the German national homeless team aren't quite as successful as their professional counterparts currently battling it out at the World Cup in Brazil. Last year in Poland, they finished 32nd out of 45 teams and the year before in Mexico, they came seventh from last.

But being the best isn't the point, said national homeless team trainer Jiří Pacourek, who scoured this weekend's tournament for talent. It's his job to pick the team but he doesn't judge on sporting ability alone.

“I'm not looking for a new Ronaldo, but for someone who really enjoys the game and importantly, plays fair,” said Pacourek, and said he also talks to social workers about whether individual players are currently getting their life together, to find out who could really benefit from the trip.

Pacourek himself knows first hand about the potential healing powers of football. A gambling problem meant he ended up sleeping on the streets for two years. Once he entered rehab, his love of football returned and he joined a team.

In 2010, he was selected for the German team to play in the Homeless Cup in Rio.

“Oh God, I couldn't believe it when the trainer asked me,” he said. “I had to ask him to repeat his words again to make sure I didn't misunderstand him.”

And the 14 days in Brazil turned out to be a life-changing opportunity. As well as being the first time he'd ever flown in a plane or swum in the ocean, just being selected gave him back his self-belief and determination to make something of his life.

Four years later, Pacourek is working as a project manager for a social welfare group in Nuremberg.

One of his favourite memories, though, is kicking the ball around with others from the Homeless World Cup.

“We went to the Copacobana and there were sixteen of us from all these different countries kicking the ball to each other,” he remembered. “Football can change people.”

By Kate Hairsine

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd