The Arsenal Foundation

Off the streets and on the ball

The Arsenal Foundation has helped fund Street Child United, a charity that connects street children by hosting international sporting events. Sam Smith and Liya Ngalam, from Islington, both took part in the Street Child World Cup Rio 2014.

Sam: “My social worker contacted me and asked me if I’d like to get involved and if I’d like to play football in Brazil. Obviously I said yes!”

Liya: “It was the same for me, as my social worker knew I was interested in human rights. At first we were excited about going to Brazil but once we met Street Child United and started to understand what it was about it became much more than just a holiday. For me, it became a lot more personal.”

Sam: “So we signed up to go to the Street Child World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Before that we had to go into training with Jack Ferguson from Arsenal in the Community. We learned some basic skills and played matches.”

Liya: “Only one of us was good at football. The rest of us were messy, not Messi. But we also went to workshops with Street Child United to learn about what we were getting involved with.”

Sam: “I already knew quite a few of the girls because we were all from Islington, so the training was a good opportunity to become a team. We were very close. We were in Brazil for ten days, just outside of Rio. We played three games and reached the quarter-finals. It was hot, and being from England we weren’t used to that! A lot of the teams had been training for a long time so they were really good. Brazil was… different. Crazy. We stayed in a complex but had a few trips – we went to see Christ the Redeemer and to Vidigal, a favella in Rio, which were really interesting. Plus we also made a lot of really good friends.”

Liya: “Brazil was amazing, and it was cool meeting the other teams. We’re still in touch with a lot of them and we made friends for life. Now we’re ambassadors for the 2018 Moscow Street Child World Cup. We’ll be helping the Great Britain team, working with Centrepoint and supporting the kids who have dealt with homelessness.”

Sam: “Street Child United has opened my eyes to the problems that street children face around the world. I didn’t really understand the problem on a global scale, so it’s made me appreciate things and realise that in Britain we’re lucky that we have a safety net. I’m now at university and studying to be a sports therapist, but I think I’ll be with Street Child United forever.”

Liya: “Once we got back I did start to take school a lot more seriously, and now I’m at university in Sheffield studying law. That was massively down to Street Child United because it motivated me to get my act together.”

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