Few teams at this year’s Homeless World Cup tournament really buy into the carnival atmosphere and spirit of fair play of the competition as much as Team Greece does.
It was no surprise to witness the women’s team, which is made up of street paper vendors, walk away with the first FIFPro award of the week.
Greece Women’s player Marzena Monika Slowik (‘Monika’) is still processing the fact that she finds herself far from her native Athens in Mexico City playing for her country on the world stage.
“Being here is more than perfect. It’s super. I really can’t describe how I feel because it’s so overwhelming,” she says.
“It’s our second last day of the tournament and it’s still not sunk in that I’m here playing a part in this great tournament and having all these great moments.”
Monika is here thanks to the fantastic work of Shedia, a magazine that mobilises the most at-risk people in Greek society and provides them the means to make a dignified living.
Having an opportunity to earn money and become part of Greece’s Diogenes NGO has allowed Monika to make positive changes in her life.
“It was a great helping hand during very dark times when I was long-term unemployed and I had absolutely no money in my pocket.
“It was the hand that pulled me out of that black hole and helped me to feel human again—to feel normal again,” she says.
Taking up football though her country’s street soccer programme has seen her self-esteem going through the roof, to a point where she feels she is “a better person psychologically”.
What Monika will take away most from her experience as part of the Homeless World Cup is the companionship and unity she has felt not only with her team mates but with all of the players across the tournament.
“The sense of solidarity and how everyone seems to stick together. All the players talk to one another, they laugh, they share, they give their heart and they all do their best on the pitch.
Words: Craig Williams
Image: Daniel Lipinski