What street soccer can teach you about life

What do kids from all over the world have in common?

You guessed it – a love for soccer.

In the spirit of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, FUDE organized a street soccer tournament with the goal of global youth unification. For two weeks, young delegates from all over the world lived and played street football together. There were over 150 participants from 20 countries.

Chile vs Sierra Leone

Chile vs Sierra Leone

Thanks to the generosity of YAP and the Humanity Helping Sudan Project, three ONE Campaign interns were chosen to be brought to Sao Paulo, Brazil to participate in the tournament and represent the United States. As one of these lucky participants, I was unsure of what to expect.

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ONE interns at the championship game in Sao Paulo

I admit, at first I was skeptical. I was unconvinced that a few soccer games against strangers would breed unification. It seemed that the competitive nature of the game would overpower any cooperative end value.

And I was so glad I was wrong. 

Incredibly, this tournament resulted in bonding that I could never have imagined. Young adults from Ghana, Argentina, the United States, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Germany, and many other nations used their common love for the game to get to know one another.

They didn’t let the weight of competition drag them down. 

Instead, the short street soccer games were friendly and fun. While the players took the games seriously, the tournament was marked by self-refereeing and solidarity. Teams were known for high-fiving their competitors and applauding great goals, even if they were scored by the opposing team.

These teams embraced the spirit of collaboration and cultural integration that the tournament represented. After being brought together for a common cause, the delegates from each nation managed to teach each other incredible amounts about their home countries, their cultures, and their personal stories.

Through this opportunity, I learned about traditional Paraguayan dances, growing up in poverty in Ghana, the complications of living in the Israeli-Palestian conflict, and countless other cultural experiences.

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Tournament participants from around the world

It turns out that street soccer taught me much more about the world than most books and experiences could, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.