If anyone visiting this year’s Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam had any doubts about where to find the tiny island nation of Grenada on a map before the tournament, they don’t any more.
While they might not have made a massive impact on the scoreboard – Grenada has won just three of eight matches so far – the team from the Caribbean island just left of Barbados won over players, fans and staff from the beginning with their infections energy and enthusiasm.
This is the first year the country has entered a team in the tournament. The players say they are proud to be only the second Caribbean country to compete at the event.
Despite being horrified by the cold, wet weather that has drenched Amsterdam in the past week, Ron Pierre and Asa Glean say they are still enjoying their time in the Netherlands.
“Our motto is ‘small nation, big heart!’” says Ron, one of the team’s defenders. “It is about what has driven us to get here. We play with our hearts. Knowing that we are the smallest country to ever perform in the Homeless World Cup is great. Ever since our first game we went out there with heart and really believing in ourselves.”
Ron adds that while the matches are short, they are still intense. “You need to think quick and have quick feet. You only have 14 minutes to prove that you belong here.”
Players from Grenada made the 16-hour journey to Amsterdam thanks to the Jason Roberts Foundation, a social sports initiative for young people based in the UK and Grenada, founded by the football pundit and former Premier League footballer.
Ron explains that youth unemployment, rather than homelessness, is a main issue in his country. He works two jobs – a bus driver by day and DJ by night – to get by. “Life in Grenada is what you make it, you have to get up to get by,” he says.
The players say they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Jason Roberts Foundation. “They really want to see young people shine and aspire to excellence,” said Ron. “For me, the Jason Roberts Foundation and Homeless World Cup are the same – taking someone from one place and elevating them and giving them the motivation to change.”
“When we are back home, the foundation will support us with our future career.” adds Asa. “Now we are developing our football skills, as a life-changing experience. The foundation is more than just football, it is about life.”