Since 2003, Surprise Strassenfussball have been reintegrating socially disadvantaged people into Swiss society.
Eighteen teams compete in four national tournaments of the Swiss street football league. Teams must be composed of socially disadvantaged adults with a coach and a manager. Players are often street paper vendors, affected by mental illness, unemployed people, seeking asylum, or suffer from substance abuse.
The league has two levels of competition for different abilities to make sure the games are fair, and the eight players chosen to play on the Swiss national team are from both levels. The team selection criteria are not only based on football skills, but on motivation and self-improvement also.
MEET THE TEAM
Even with Switzerland being one of the richest countries in the world, ranking 2nd in the 2018 United Nations Human Development Report (UNDP, 2018), 7% of permanent residents live in poverty in terms of income (BFS, 2015). The poverty rate of foreigners from non-European countries is significantly higher at 11.7% (BFS, 2015).
There is little official information regarding homelessness in Switzerland. While the country has a highly skilled labour force, there are still economically vulnerable people with 3.2% unemployed (CIA World Factbook, 2017).
Although less visible, homelessness does exist. In April 2019 Zurich-based homeless shelter Pastor Sieber Emergency Sleeping Centre reported its second highest winter occupancy since its opening in 2002, with 4,801 overnight stays (Diakone Schweiz, 2019).