A new award introduced at the Homeless World Cup today proves once again that this is a tournament where winning isn’t everything.
Today, Sweden’s Jannike Lindahl was the first of eight Homeless World Cup players to be presented with a FIFPro Fair Play Award, which recognises exceptional sportsmanship.
The player from Gothenburg walked out to huge cheers on pitch one in Amsterdam’s Museum Square, where she accepted the award from FIFPro representative Fernando Revilla.
Homeless World Cup referee Harry Milas explained that Jannike was chosen because of her impeccable behaviour during Sweden’s opening match against Belgium on Saturday, 12 September.
“There was a passage of play and the two opponents had collided with each other. When Jannike’s opponent fell to the ground she decided to stop play and pick up the player to make sure she was ok,” said Milas.
“Had she not done so, she could have been one-on-one with the keeper and could have scored a goal so that showed great empathy towards the other player.”
As it happened, Sweden won the game 3-2. Jannike said she was overwhelmed to receive the award, if a little surprised.
“I was very nervous but this feels good. It was very nice,” said the 29-year-old.
“I didn’t think I was going to get this because I play a bit rough so it was a bit of a surprise. I was afraid that she hit her head against the barrier so I thought, ‘Oh no, I need to help her up’ because it’s still a friendly match you know.”
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Jannike has only played for her team Gatens Lag for two months. Like many street football players, she has overcome homelessness and drug addiction to represent her home country on an international stage.
Having completed rehab, Jannike says she will move into permanent housing when she returns to Gothenburg.
She adds that representing her country in Amsterdam is an incredible experience and that her teammates have been a huge support to her, both in The Netherlands and back home.
“We are more than a team, we have become good friends and support each other. I’m in a good place. The atmosphere here is better than what I ever expected. We were very nervous but it’s really fun. Everyone is very friendly and happy.”
Homeless World Cup referees will decide on one stand-out player to receive the FIFPro award every day during the tournament. The winners will become a member of the Fair Play World 8, who will be officially honoured on the final day of play.
Milas is thrilled that the award has been introduced this year. He said: “The Homeless World Cup is all about fair play and respect to other players so I think this helps with that message and highlight what the whole tournament is about.”