One person who has most definitely been bitten by the Homeless World Cup ‘bug’ is Russian player Sergei Shavrin.
The 29-year-old from the city of Novosibirsk is often to be found in the stands cheering on other teams and mingling with players from other nations, with the language barrier not standing in his way when it comes to forging new relationships.
“Being here is a very unusual experience for me. You can see representatives from all over the world in the one place. You have the possibility to speak with them and understand them.”
And he is quick to wax lyrical about how he feels about turning out for his country.
“It’s filling me with unforgettable emotions that will be kept in my heart and in my mind for the rest of my life. From the very beginning, and I hope up to the end of the tournament, I have a feeling of great pride being a part of it.”
Sergei’s inclusion in the Russia squad in Oslo is the culmination of a journey from a past blighted by homelessness, having spent four years without a home after his house burnt down.
However, thanks to governmental assistance, he is happy to report that he has a permanent roof over his head. And he is grateful for the support he has received in finding the solution to his problems with the help of his country’s street soccer network.
“For me, a big part of this was journey was very difficult. I have to thank the who individuals have inspired me to dream and to fight for realising my dream.”
And Sergei’s involvement with the Homeless World Cup has made such a mark on him that he hopes to continue to keep football, and the tournament, central to his life in the future.
“Definitely. I can’t imagine myself stepping out from this process now. I will look for new horizons and to use myself in as many tournaments as possible, maybe playing a part in organizing new tournaments on my return to Russia.”
Words: Craig Williams
Images: Daniel Lipinski