With a mischievous smile and a great deal of self-confidence, young György Grekui walked into the interview area, accompanied by teammate Claudiu Pop, the self-appointed interpreter for the interview.
György – known as Gyuri among his team – is 18 years old, and one of the youngest players in the Romanian squad. He comes from the city of Targu Mures, north of Bucharest, the country’s capital city. György lives with his mother; he has three older brothers but they have all moved away from their home. “My mother has breathing problems,” said Gyrogy with Claudiu’s assistance. “I live in an area where no one should live,” he continued. “It’s a dangerous place. We live in a wooden house, with no electricity and no running water.” “He is living tough” added Claudiu.
György’s confident strut, mischievous smile, and outgoing personality make it difficult to imagine he has endured such marginalisation and extreme poverty. “Gyuri is a survivor,” said Claudiu with great pride for his younger teammate.
After completing primary school, György started to work in a park in Targu Mures. “It’s like an animal farm, where people can come to camp and see the animals. I look after them. We have two horses, five ponies, pigs, little bunnies, guinea pigs and dogs. I really like looking after them.”
In addition to his farm work, György also volunteers at a centre that helps marginalised young men. “Because of his good behaviour and commitment, he now teaches little kids to write and read. He is a good leader,” said Claudiu. “I like teaching them,” added Gyorgy. “They make me a better person.”
György made the Romanian squad at a selection tournament in Timisoara, home to Fotbal de Strada, the Homeless World Cup National Partner in Romania. Because of the long distance between Timisoara and György’s hometown, he could only start training with the team a month before the Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam started.
“The team is very close, and the journey here brought us even closer,” said Gyrogy before he burst out laughing. Claudiu then explained that the Romanian squad drove a van from Timisoara all the way to Amsterdam. “It took us like 36 hours!” shouted Claudiu, “but we made it.”
Being here means a lot for Giörgy “It’s more than pleasure,” he said. “It’s joy! I am watching the best players here and I want to play like them.” The young striker laughed at his own football skills, saying “they’re not very good.”
György is endeavouring to improve his life. He wants to be able to make some money and find a new place to live for him and his mother. “When someone offers you a helping hand, you must take it.” This is also the advice he gives his young students.
Photography by Daniel Lipinski and Alex Walker
Words by Mariana Mercado