HIV Positive Football Players Aim for the Homeless World Cup in Paris
Rumah Cemara’s HIV positive football players are pinning their hopes on playing at the Homeless World Cup (HWC) tournament this August on the famed Champs de Mars turf in Paris.
“For our HIV positive players to play 90 minutes of football on a world stage, televised from Paris—can you imagine? This would be a kind of magic,” said Aditia Taslim, Rumah Cemara’s international grant writer.
By playing in the HWC, Rumah Cemara’s players hope to transform their lives and change the Indonesian government’s hands-off stance on HIV awareness. They want to change attitudes about those living with HIV and homelessness, and to gain support from the Indonesian government, which has largely refused to engage in public HIV awareness initiatives due to prevalent social taboos.
Rumah Cemara is a drug rehabilitation and HIV support center located in West Java, Indonesia. It was recently selected to represent Indonesia at the HWC tournament, an internationally televised event where homeless football teams from 55 nations across the globe will compete.
Rumah Cemara was recently named the Grand Prize Winner of Ashoka’s Changemakers and Nike’s Changing Lives Through Football competition for its use of football to facilitate HIV education. “The recognition from Nike and Changemakers helped Rumah Cemara win its bid to represent Indonesia at the Homeless World Cup,” said Taslim. “Being selected was incredibly important for us.”
“We see homelessness as not only about literally lacking a building to live in,” said Taslim said, explaining that those living with HIV in Indonesia also feel excluded from society. “As a marginalized community, we have felt homeless most of our lives. We don’t feel safe. We often can’t find homes because of stigma and discrimination. These are things we have to face every day.”
Discrimination against HIV positive individuals in Indonesia is common, barring them from accessing health services, housing, and employment. For Rumah’s HIV positive players, many of whom are also recovering drug addicts and have experienced homelessness, representing their home country on a world stage would mean taking one step closer towards ending the widespread discrimination against HIV positive individuals. It would also be a life-changing event for its players.
“We’ve seen how football has improved our member’s lives,” Taslim said. “Not only physically, but also socially. It gives them the confidence to re-enter society and interact with other people.”
The HWC organization reports that more than 70 percent of its players significantly change their lives in ways such as finding employment, seeking education, and addressing substance abuse. One homeless player, Bebe, became a powerful representation of triumph against homelessness after he was recruited by the premiere U.K. soccer team, Manchester United. (Although Bebe did not actually play in the HWC tournament, as was widely reported, he was a homeless player for the street soccer club that is responsible for Portugal’s HWC team.)
“We don’t expect to become like Bebe,” said Taslim, “but we just love football to death. And we’ve seen the magic of football in real life. Participating in this tournament could open up so many opportunities for us.”
Rumah Cemara has joined Global Giving in order to raise funds to participate in the tournament. “Unfortunately, Indonesian businesses and the government have not been responsive to our fundraising efforts,” Taslim said.
By Kristie Wang for Ashoka’s Changemakers