Some say winning isn’t everything, and for the organizers and players of Chile’s Fútbol Calle, this could not be more true, although they still enjoy a good victory.
The program, which in English means Street Soccer, is available to the country’s most vulnerable, Chile’s homeless and struggling. The organization runs two training sessions a week in cities across the country and has sent a national squad to the Homeless World Cup ever since Fútbol Calle’s foundation in 2006.
Chile has found success in the tournament, which is held in a different country each year. In 2010 Chile came second to host Brazil, and last year Chile took the top spot defeating host Mexico in a hard fought 8-5 win in the final.
Juan Erazo, executive director of Fútbol Calle told This is Chile that the squad was nervous and excited heading into the 2012 final that saw them take the title.
“We were pretty anxious before. We won game by game, closer and closer to the cup and it mirrored the evolution of our lives to this point,” Erazo said.
This year, Chile’s men’s side took fourth and the women took second in the tournament, held in Poznán, Poland. Despite the team’s lower finishing compared to previous years, Erazo said the program, and the team, have grown a lot this year and has much to celebrate.
“We had people from all parts of the country participating in the national selection this year,” Erazo explained to This is Chile. “The program has grown to reach the very North and the deepest South.”
Pulling players from such varied parts of the country made cohesion as a team more difficult, but it demonstrated a great victory in itself for Fútbol Calle. Erazo says this was part of the mentality going into the World Cup.
“If we win we are happy, if we don’t win we have still achieved something as a team and program,” Erazo reflected.
At its core, the program is much more than soccer, and that is why its growth and development means a lot to those involved.
“Fútbol Calle” is a social project that, through sport, seeks to give opportunities for physical and social development for men and women from Arica to Punta Arenas. Based upon the ideal of participation and the inclusion of participants from vulnerable backgrounds, [the program seeks to] use soccer as a platform for sports training and values,” the program’s website explains.
Erazo emphasized this aspect of their work in our conversation.
“We have people who are overcoming homelessness, alcohol issues, addiction problems,” he said.
Fútbol Calle works alongside “Accion Total” and the Family Foundation which is led by Chile’s first lady, Cecilia Morel. Today the program has more than 2,500 participants and looks set to continue to develop as Chile prepares to host the Americas Cup in November and the Homeless World Cup in 2014.
When This is Chile asked Erazo how he thought the upcoming tournament would rank against its predecessors he was unequivocal – “It will be the best world cup in history.”