Like the vast majority of players who are taking part at this year’s Homeless World Cup in Cardiff, Team Switzerland’s Arben Curri has gone through his own experience of homelessness.
“I was unemployed for a long time, at least for me it was. Maybe half a year I worked and then again I was unemployed and it went like this.
“There was a time, for around half a year, where I didn’t have a fixed place to sleep. I was just sleeping at friends’ houses or at the seaside on a bench,” he said.
It was during this period that he started his involvement with Surprise Strassenfussball, the national street soccer organisation that has been reintegrating socially disadvantaged people into Swiss society since 2003.
And Curri did so while he was in the process of searching for work and undertaking a course to try and help him to do so in his native city.
“I got involved very spontaneously because I did a course in a language school and then I saw a poster on the wall saying that they were going to train.
“And I just went there and I was invited to a tournament in Basel and then I met the coach of the Swiss team and he got in touch and asked me if I wanted to come here,” he said.
Thankfully, Curri has found both temporary employment and a permanent roof over his head, with plans to study also in the not-too-distant future.
Joining up with the street soccer programme, he said, came at the perfect time for him.
“I’m working in an office at the moment. It’s a temporary job—my goal is to continue with school. I’m going to start studying Social Sciences.
“My situation has also changed now because I met some people and I moved in with them and now I’m living in a little flat. It’s cool. I’ve found a job and now I can afford it.
“I think it [the street soccer programme] came at the right time. Of course it helped, but not because of the football—it was just a plus,” he said.
On the pitch, Curri is very competitive and is hoping he can help Team Switzerland return home with a trophy for their efforts.
As someone keen to come away with a win in every game, being here in Cardiff competing against strong sides from across the globe is teaching him how to cope with defeat as well.
“It’s an up and down all day and all night. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. I like to win, I have to be honest. It’s about fair play, it’s about respect, and being with people from different cultures. But I want to win and I’m sad if we lose.
“It’s a daily fight. It’s an opportunity to learn how to deal with defeats and just to focus on what’s more important than winning. I just need some time after a game and then it’s alright. But the first hour after a game you just have to leave me alone!” he said.
That being said, he knows that, regardless of the outcome come the end of the tournament, he’ll go back to his home city of Lucerne with happy memories of his time here.
“But if we are not going to win a trophy, I’m going to definitely bring some positive vibes home with me. The whole event is really cool. And I’ll never stop playing football,” he said.
Words: Craig Williams
Images: Daniel Lipinski / Soda-Visual