Camilla Lindén

Camilla Lindén

Camilla Lindén, 40, represented Sweden at the 2014 Homeless World Cup in Santiago, Chile. A drug user since age 17, she has now been sober for more than a year, her longest since becoming an addict—and she credits street football with her success.

The support she receives from her teammates and coaches at Gatans Lag, the Homeless World Cup’s national partner in Sweden, is invaluable and helps her stay strong. “I have never had anyone to call my own before,” she reflected. “In Chile and Sweden, I have a whole team of wonderful people now. They are like my family.”

She had attempted to give up drugs before, but her living situation led to repeated return to addiction after rehab. “When you give up drugs, you are all alone. All your friends do drugs, and it is too easy to start taking them again,” she said. “But with football, I have focus and purpose and a strong circle of support. I belong to something. Football has been like a best friend to me.”

Her team also provides support with other challenges in her life. “I have multiple sclerosis, which means I get dizzy and can’t move so well at times. But being part of a team motivates me, and they encourage me every time we train. I had bad balance and thought I would never be picked for the team.” Her coaches, however, saw only her dedication and hard work. Camilla quoted their positive message: “If you never miss a single training session and you practice and commit to do your best, you will go to Chile.” When the invitation came, she was “completely overwhelmed.”

Her best memory of the Homeless World Cup was not a thrilling victory but a thoughtful defeat. “For me, the best memory from Chile was when we were beat by India! When we lost, we were disappointed and initially, I felt really low. But then those Indian girls were just so happy that they had won.” Camilla reflected, “Indian women don’t have great opportunities in their own country, and this really means a lot to them. The truth is, I will go back to Sweden and I can have opportunities if I want them…I am happy for myself and I am happy for them.”

As soon as she returned home from Chile, Camilla wrote a heartfelt thank you letter to the woman who introduced her to the street football program in Sweden. She wanted to say thanks “because no one can ever take this experience away from me…I did my best. I feel really well, and I feel good about myself and my future.”

Camilla’s confidence has continued to grow since her return from Chile. “I now have super self-esteem,” she said. “Because I had the guts to do that…what else can I do? I believe in myself. I failed before because I had no goals.”

She remains dedicated to football, playing once a week and working at Gatans Lag three days a week. Her goal is to help raise funds “to make sure that Sweden has the money to spend on getting Team Sweden 2015 to Amsterdam next September.”

Of her street football family, Camilla added, “We help each other as good as we can.”

“We all love football and we all hate homelessness – it’s a no brainer.”

Irvine Welsh