Leading Team Czech Republic at the Homeless World Cup here in Cardiff is 30-year-old Tomas Siska, who hails from the town of Zlate Hory on the border with Poland.
His arm tattoo bears the name of his six-year-old daughter Eliska, who is watching on from home with her mum as her father captains his country on the world stage.
“I miss my daughter a lot. It’s my responsibility to be a good dad. I communicate with my daughter and her mother. They’ve been watching my matches and after every match they’ve been sending me messages. I feel great.
“After the first win I was really really crying after reading their messages when I came off the pitch. I think a lot of people are watching the team in Czech Republic,” he said.
Siska has spent the last five years living on the streets in the Czech capital, Prague, and having started working recently, is hoping that on his return to his native country he can change his current situation and find a permanent roof over his head.
“I’m from the streets. I’ve never taken drugs or anything like that. I was living on the streets for five years and now I’m going back. I want to improve things all for my daughter, not for me.
“Now I don’t have a bed for me yet. I don’t know where I will go. I have good work for me so that’s what’s most important for me. To have a good job, make some money so I can take a flat or find a room.
“There is a boat in Prague and that boat is only for sleeping for homeless people so you can go there between 7.30 and 8.30 in the evening, you pay 20 Czech krona and you can sleep up to six in the morning.
“But it’s still not good for me because I must be at work at night. Now it’s good because it’s summer its nice weather. But in winter it is terrible.
“Right now I work as a security in events and some big concert events. Ed Sheeran, AC/DC, and an NHL, game for example.
“So it’s OK as I can see the event and make some money. It’s a good job for me for now because I have money after every day,” he said.
Siska thanks the sports programme “Zvítězit může každý” (Everyone Can Win), which aims to reach vulnerable groups of people by organising football sessions and other activities, for helping him in his journey to try and improve his current life situation.
“They are pushing me up and my morale has gone up. They are always telling me that I’m a good man so I can do it,” he said.
Having played volleyball instead of football, Siska heard about the Homeless World Cup and the street soccer programme in his country back in 2011.
He had the chance to take part in Mexico last year, but wasn’t able to, and as a result couldn’t miss the second chance to play for his team here in Cardiff, even if that meant coming to Wales by road from Prague with his teammates on a gruelling van journey that took 25 hours.
But he’s here. He is participating at a tournament that he is enjoying as much on the field as off it, while also having the chance to do new things while he is at it.
“I’ve never been in something like this before. It’s awesome. There’s a lot of friendly people and I’m very happy to be here at the event. Everything is great. And I’m happy to lead my team.
“We have a great guide also from Swansea who took us to the beach and we went swimming in the ocean. It was awesome. For me it was so much fun. It was the first time swimming in the ocean. It was so salty!” he said.
While being here is helping Siska to focus on what improvements he wishes to make to change his current situation, he also can’t wait to go back home to see his biggest fan, his daughter.
“I know there are things that I must improve when I go back. But I can’t wait to return and see my daughter again and give her a kiss. I have so many presents to give her also,” he said.
Words: Craig Williams
Images: Daniel Lipinski / Soda-Visual