“It felt like everyone came from the same country that day”

“Football has been part of my life since forever. I grew up in a part of the city where we played football every day. We didn’t have the means to play video games and things like that, so only football was possible. I would play, go home to eat, and then I would get out again and play. It means I could avoid the problems that were happening at school and home,” says French street soccer player Diaa Edine Abou Serie Mohamed.

“In school I was always problematic. I always had issues staying in schools. I got excluded from a few of them, which meant I was at home all the time, which increased tensions. I am the only boy in my family, my mum is a single mum, and I have seven sisters.

“Me getting expelled from school created this tension between myself and my mum. I felt both pressure and boredom and started doing things, illegal stuff. I didn’t have another place to go to during the day so I just took my stuff and left and ended up in a homeless shelter in the city of Clermont-Ferrand.”

Exclusion refers to the removal or banning of a student from school. The approach is based on the assumption that punishment will compel students to change their behaviour. In practice, a permanent exclusion is equal to giving up on a young person.

Most education systems around the world don’t have supportive processes in place for young people who have been excluded from school. This means that you may only be at the beginning of your life, but the odds are against you with a high chance that your life course from school will be prison, homelessness, addiction … Over 70% of people who have lived experience of homelessness in the UK, for example, have been excluded from school during their education.

“Being excluded from school was the moment it started to all fall down for me. Because I do have all of this knowledge and this capacity inside me. It’s just my anger.”

Mohamed shares what he has learnt and what changes he think need to be made.

“Whatever caused my behaviour in the past, these are problems I still have. My issues are still there, and they will probably be with me for a while. We need to get better at taking people as people. Everyone experiences things in different ways. In France we don’t consider people as people, we don’t personalise our responses or handlings of people. We need to understand that people don’t fit in the same box,” Mohamed says.

“I may still get angry easily, but I feel through the support of the team, being here at the Homeless World Cup, the support of Sammy, this anger, my temper has calmed down a lot. I feel less impulsive and have more self-control and I can snap out of my anger now. I have been gone from home a year now but me and my mum we are in contact, we speak with each other, loving each other from afar.”

School education may have excluded for now, Mohamed but he is very much set on including it in his future.

“I want to go back to school, finish high school, get my national diploma, maybe come and stay in the UK, maybe come to Cardiff. Being here in Cardiff will stay forever engrained in my memory. The day we danced altogether when it was raining in the team tent—it was the most beautiful day. Everyone danced, even players who had played and lost against each other. It felt like everyone came from the same country that day. For me after being here, the most important thing is to get back to school and university and make my mother proud.”

Words: Deborah May
Images: Romain Kedochim / Soda-Visual