11 October 2012
Words and photo by Peter Barr
The photo (right) shows one of the many homeless people who gather in the area around Hidalgo metro station every day and night...
Daniel Copto, the manager of the Mexico teams, has a dream: Street Soccer Mexico House. "This is the legacy I would like to see from the Homeless World Cup being held here," said Daniel, speaking this morning at the birthplace of his programme for the homeless, in the centre of Mexico City.
Many "treatment centres" for addicts use outdated and sometimes cruel methods and Daniel's dream is to create a place where the victims of drugs and the homeless are treated as human beings, as part of his football-based programme.
As young men kicked a ball around in a paved area near Hidalgo metro station, some of them already high on drugs just after dawn, he talked about how he started the programme five years ago, building trust with young men destroyed by sniffing glue.
Many of them have been hanging around here for up to 10 years and it's amazing they have managed to survive. "It's a long time to die," said Daniel.
The programme has steadily grown through the years. Today, there are over 7,000 people coming along every week to play football, in various locations nationwide. But even though he can feel proud of his achievements so far, Daniel is more concerned about the future - and the hundreds of thousands of "invisible" people who have no identity papers and are therefore excluded from basic public services, as well as the addicts and people escaping from violence and crime. The poorest of the poor.
"As far as the authorities are concerned, these people do not exist," said Daniel.
Since he returned to Mexico five years ago from Canada to set up the programme, Daniel has been trying to "change the culture" - how addicts are treated. "These people feel like a piece of s**t," said Daniel. "And you have to tell them they are not a piece of s**t, so they can do whatever it takes to get better."
"We must build trust," he said. "Empower them."
Then as he kicks a ball back to one of the guys playing football, Daniel sums up his approach in one word: