CAIRO (Reuters) – An Egyptian sports academy is looking for the country’s next big football star among orphans and street children, hoping to give them a shot at improving their lives.
Founded by former professional football player Tamer Begato, Children Without Shelter organises matches between young boys willing to demonstrate their football skills before asking them to join the academy.
“I started observing stories of the young children and how their whole dream was to become a hero or champion. They were taken with becoming a football champion,” Begato said.
“I felt that through football I can bring out a talent inside a boy, without him already knowing he has the talent. He could become very big in football, or a any other field.”
Funded by Begato, the academy was founded this year and now trains over fifty children between the ages of eight and fourteen.
While the training is largely focused on football skills and tactics, children also receive behavioural and psychological care in hope to eventually help them integrate into society.
“There has to be psychological support and rehabilitation before they start playing football (full time)” said psychologist and trainer Ghada Abdelrahim.
“They could play football but the main goal and psychological comfort for the child would not be achieved. This is what we work on in our program,” she added.
According to the United Nations there are around 150 million street children around the world, and a 2014 study by Egypt’s National Institute for Social and Criminal Studies estimated that there are more than 16,000 street children in Egypt, a country of more than 95 million.
(Reporting by Mostafa Salem, Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Toby Chopra)