By Lenore T. Adkins, Special to the AFRO
FIFA World Cup frenzy may be fading for male stars after the tournament ends next weekend; but it’s just heating up for nine teenage girls from D.C. who represented the United States at another international soccer competition — the 2018 Street Child World Cup in Russia.
The D.C. Line reported that the all-girl squad ranging in age from 14 to 17 has either struggled with or been at risk for homelessness. The tournament’s aim is amplifying the plight of homeless and economically disadvantaged children from all over the world. The girls made history as the first U.S. team to ever play in the Street Child World Cup, according to the D.C. Line.
On June 5, the D.C. City Council approved a ceremonial resolution in honor of the squad, and Councilman David Grosso presented the resolution to the team and coaches Lindsey Sharp and Amir Lowery at the council’s July 3 meeting.
The resolution notes that Team USA “overcame economic challenges and triumphed in the face of adversity (and) are role models for the residents of the District of Columbia. The players are: Agnès-Laure M. Signou, Emily Dariana Lobo-Castillo, Jamilet Rivera, Jessica Cecilia Amaya-Zuniga, Jocelyn Racel Cruz, Juliana Y. Franco, Kalkidan Haile, Karina Abarca and Nohemy Salomon.
“We just want to take this opportunity to say thank you,” Amaya-Zuniga told the council, according to the D.C. Line. “It’s an amazing experience. We all had so much fun. We learned the language of Russian.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations is expected to recognize the girls later on this month.
Moscow hosted the Street Child World Cup in May ahead of the FIFA World Cup — its two previous hosts were Brazil in 2014 and South Africa in 2010.
Street Child United is a British charity that deploys the power of sports and international athletic events to change stereotypes about street-connected kids all over the world, according to its website.
The girls are alumnae of DC SCORES, which creates neighborhood soccer teams aiming to give low-income kids the skills and confidence they need to conquer the pitch, the classroom and life. The group turns 25 next year and has fielded more than 20,000 low-income kids since its inception.
In Russia, the girls also attended peer-to-peer events, forums and presentations that raised awareness about homelessness. Speakers included soccer players, coaches and community leaders. All told, the competition brought together more than 200 children from 24 countries.
When it came to soccer, the squad suited up in gear from Adidas and D.C. United, including new cleats, practice jerseys, shin guards, gear bags and warm-up clothing, according to the D.C. Line. Although Brazil ultimately won the Street Child World Cup, the American girls finished in fifth place and scored a 4-1 win over Mexico.