The South African team has lit up this year’s Homeless World Cup tournament thanks to the players’ constant singing and dancing, coupled with an infectious attitude of fair play and fun.
And for South African player Athenkosi Qusheka, his team’s entertaining performances, both and on and off the park, mirror the players’ natural desire to revel in the carnival atmosphere.
“It’s basically something we have in our genes, it brings us together…something that brings Oslo alive. I can say that it’s not something we intend to do. It’s just something that is inside us — it happens naturally.”
The 20-year-old from the Eastern Cape got involved in his country’s street soccer programme two years ago, and his transition from drug dependency to footballer appearing on a world stage is something in which he takes great personal pride.
“Two years ago I was a drug addict. And right now I have been clean for two years, ever since I joined the street soccer programme. And here I am, having the chance to represent my country in Oslo.”
Thanks to the work of South Africa’s Oasis street soccer programme, players like Qusheka have been able to turn their lives around and take advantage of the unique experience that is the Homeless World Cup, an experience that he is keen to share with others.
“Everything we do on the pitch we take with us to help resolve the problems we face in our everyday lives. I will go back to South Africa and share the experience I have had here and make sure that I will be a better person from the person I was before.”
And Qusheka is keen to make as many friends as possible in the remaining time he has in Oslo.
“I’m talkative and I love to engage myself with other people, so it has been a great life experience, one that I never thought I would get. Football brings every country together. Look at us. We are from Africa and we came here to Europe to play, thanks to football.”
Images: Daniel Lipinski