The Homeless World Cup movement is a British-based initiative with the primary purpose of eradicating homelessness in the world. Mexico City has won the rights to host this year’s tournament, which kicks off tomorrow.
Report – By Mahvash Ali
When 31-year old Ginan Koesmayadi heard his national anthem last year in Paris, he held his head high and let the tears flow.
Eleven years ago he was a homeless heroin addict loitering through the streets of Bandung, Indonesia, looking for purpose.
He had been diagnosed with HIV, had no one to talk to and felt powerless at the hands of fate.
His country was one of 59 participating nations at the 9th Homeless Football World Cup.
The Homeless World Cup movement is a British-based initiative with the primary purpose of eradicating homelessness in the world.
Mexico City has won the rights to host this year’s tournament, which kicks off tomorrow.
There are 62 nations participating in the world cup. The games are being broadcast free on the Homeless World Cup website.
Koesmayadi is one of more than 310,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Indonesia.
He believes he contracted the virus more than decade ago through an infected needle.
Soon after he learnt his HIV status, he decided to seek help for his drug habit.
But the journey was not easy, says Koesmayadi.
“My family had kicked me out of home, I had been in and out of jail. One night I realised I had no one to talk to – no friends, and no girlfriend,” he says.
“I felt I had no control over my body even though it was mine. So I was just roaming aimlessly in downtown Bandung when I decided I had enough and I needed help. Everything did not become fine immediately.
“There was a very long process, it took a long time but at least I took the first step by saying, ‘I have a problem’.”
Today, Koesmayadi is co-director of a not-for-profit called Rumah Cemara that aims at improving the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS and drugs.. It has offices in Bandung, Sukabumi, and Cianjur
Twenty-eight year old Aditia Taslim is the grant manager of Rumah Cemara.
HIV/AIDS is no longer a taboo topic and Rumah Camera’s work has helped dispel some myths about the subject, says Taslim
“We try to help drug users to find themselves and take their lives back. Recovery is a process not an end point.
“Fortunately, our city Bandung is one of the most liberal in Indonesia. So the stigma is not as bad as it is elsewhere.”
There was a time when drug users would be forced in to marriage in an attempt to “cure the habit”.
“This did more damage than good. Often these drug users had HIV/AIDS and ended up passing it to their spouses and any children they had,” he says.
That trend has changed, says Taslim.
Koesmayadi says it is much too difficult to talk about passing HIV/AIDS through needle exchange instead of sexual transmission.
It is more straightforward to talk about drugs than it is to “socialise condoms”, according to him.
The idea of the Homeless Football World Cup came from Mel Young of Scotland and Harald Schmied, who came up with this idea at a conference about homelessness in 2003.
Peter Barr, is communications director of the organisation, says: “It is about using football to help players learn about themselves, to include them in a social activity.
“It is more the process of coming to the tournament and meeting other players. Of course, the competition is healthy too, but our players focus on the process as well, that is the wonder of this tournament.”
Koesmayadi was selected as a brand ambassador for the Homeless Football Cup last year after being given the award for the best player when the tournament was held in Paris.
“Ginan is a tremendous example of someone who enjoyed the game and used it learn about himself. He shows leadership and commitment and is an example for his community,” says Barr.
Hollywood actor Colin Farrell lent his voice and support to a 2008 documentary about the tournament titled Kicking it.
The documentary premiered in New York and was screened at the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals.
Farrell is now producing a feature film on the subject of drugs and homelessness to raise awareness about the issue.
Kat Bayls from the Homeless Football organisation is providing support to the project.
“The film is in development and the idea is that Colin Farrell will also act in it,” she says.
Farrell’s support has helped raise consciousness about the plight of homeless people according to Bayls
Koesmayadi is engaged and the couple hope to tie the knot in December 2013.
He met his fiancé in 2009. She is a consultant for Rumah Camera and lives in America.
“She knows about my HIV status and she is fine with it,” he says.
Mahvash Ali is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.