Former street paper vendor Jasmin Pantzar Eriksson only trained with the Swedish team for two days before they flew out to Amsterdam.
But that hasn’t stopped the Gatans Lag player from saving goals left, right and centre during the Homeless World Cup this week.
A last-minute addition to the team, the 33-year-old from Gothenburg has a confession to make.
“I don’t like football!” she laughs.
“I used to play when I was younger. My friend Jannike is on the team and she phoned me two weeks ago saying they needed a goalkeeper.”
If Jasmin feels a little rusty on the pitch, she doesn’t look it. Earlier today, she was instrumental in helping her team reach the semi-finals of the Women’s Plate competition, with a 5-3 win over the USA.
“I’ve been blocking a lot of goals and saved one with a split!” she says. “We’re a pretty tight team as you can see. We have had some really good matches but it doesn’t matter so much if we win. We’re here to have fun.”
Jasmin has been homeless for seven years. During that time, she has battled drug and alcohol addiction, been in and out of prison and has moved between hostels and transitional housing.
At a low point in 2006, Jasmin heard about an NGO in her home city of Gothenburg that helps homeless and disadvantaged people get back on their feet. She tells me she sold the street paper Faktum for four months to help her stay of the streets.
“I was living in a shelter centre and had to pay for my room. It was very expensive and I needed the money so I contacted Faktum,” says Jasmin.
She adds that selling the paper is a huge motivation to stay away from drugs and crime.
“It helped me earn money and made my day meaningful. I was not just doing drugs or drinking. I felt like I had a job to go to,” she says.
“It made me feel like I was needed because I was doing something good to get money, instead of selling dugs I sold the magazine.”
Jasmin says the support street papers like Faktum offer people is invaluable.
“They give you an opportunity to grow as a person first and to see that you can make money without doing crimes, doing drugs or anything bad,” she says.
“You start to see value in yourself and then you can grow as a person. When you see that, you want to do better and better.”
Even if her team doesn’t lift a trophy here in Amsterdam, Jasmin already feels like a winner. She hopes to find a job when returns to Gothenberg and is looking forward to moving into her own home later this year.
“My social worker told me that in December I’m getting my own apartment,” she says with a smile. “When I get my key, finally I will no longer be homeless.”