For Italy player Kevin Gioia, an injury concern wasn’t going to put paid to his desire to line up for his country at this year’s Homeless World Cup in Oslo.
“I thought that I might not make the tournament when I got injured in June. The doctor told me I would be out for two months, but I was able to play again one month early. I am here thanks to the motivation to come and to be part of my national team.”
That Gioia is playing an important part in Italy’s participation in the tournament speaks of the sacrifices he has made to be here, with the many hours of physio work to overcome an ankle injury, something he feels was worth the extra effort to pull on the Azzurri jersey.
“To represent my country has filled me with nice and very strong emotions. But it also places a responsibility on me, wearing my national team’s shirt.”
The 22-year-old gained his ticket to Oslo thanks to his participation with the ASD Dogma Onlus organisation’s street soccer project in his home city of Milan. Dogma Onlus works in rough neighbourhoods across the country to promote sports and physical education.
The four-a-side type of game played at the Homeless World Cup is a novel one to Gioia, but one he has quickly warmed to, alongside the general spirit of fair play and camaraderie.
“It’s been a marvellous experience, even if I’ve been playing a different kind of football than I have been used to. That said, it’s been fantastic, in every way possible. Here everyone is together, supporting the other teams. It’s a completely new experience for me.”
And he will return to Milan with the intention to translate the desire he puts in on the park into his everyday life.
“Like the other players, I think about having to fight to overcome difficult experiences in the neighbourhood and in the city, with things like addiction. The thing I will take home most from my time in Oslo is the motivation to do something, to fight for results, and not stop fighting every day for the rest of my life.”
Words: Craig Williams
Images: Daniel Lipinski