By Ryan Songalia
MANILA, Philippines - Three of them had worked in the garbage industry of Payatas as young children, scavenging through trash to support their family. One was born in a cemetery. Many had lost a parent while several have lost both. One was left homeless after her family's home burned down and had spent nights sleeping on the street.They are Team Philippines, the group that has risen from extreme life difficulties to take the Street Child World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by storm. In its second installment, the World Cup pits over 200 youngsters from 19 countries around the world as the premier football tournament for underprivileged youth.
While the boys squad fell short to Pakistan in the quarters, the girls team is gearing up for the finals against host country Brazil, which takes place Sunday, April 6 at 11 p.m. PH time.
The squads, comprised of 9 per team of kids ranging from ages 13-18, represent the most vulnerable segment of the population. Though their stories are diverse and life circumstances vary, they are bound together by one common battle cry: “I am somebody!”
"Each of them have their own story. It's a very mixed group, and that's great because it represents the different kind of street children and child laborers in the country," Roy Moore, coach of Team Philippines, tells Rappler.(RELATED: Filipino youth will make their names at Street Child World Cup)
The girls' squad, which is the only one from Asia, has torn through their competition so far, beginning with a 9-0 rout of South Africa on April 1, followed by a 6-0 victory over England. Their 1-0 victory over Mozambique on Saturday earned them a spot in the finals.
"It should be a really good game," said Moore. "Brazil are a strong side and it's probably quite even. I don't think there's a favorite for the game now, so it will hopefully be the best game of the whole of the girls division in the Street Child World Cup."
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