SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Three Sacramento women will soon be representing Team USA in this year’s Homeless World Cup.
The annual tournament taking place in Wales draws hundreds of players from around the world who have dealt with being homeless.
While many may not even know that such a tournament exists, it typically draws crowds of more than 80,000 as it aims to bring awareness to the problem of homelessness.
“The feeling I have right now, well I’m kind of overwhelmed,” said Savannah Tijerina-Santos.
The 19-year-old grew up in a broken home in Sacramento and has been homeless for about a year, jumping from couch to couch.
“I didn’t have anyone, I felt lost, and they helped put me on the right track,” said Tijerina-Santos.
Through the non-profit Street Soccer USA Sacramento, Tijerina-Santos says she’s gained a sense of purpose.
“This program…they showed me a whole new kind of love, a new meaning to love, a love that doesn’t have to be from family,” she said.
Now, she and two other women will be representing the U.S. in the sporting spectacle known as the Homeless World Cup where 500 players will be representing 50 proud nations.
“It’s still hard to wrap my head around that I’m gonna be a part of this group. I’m so excited to get to know these girls, and learn from their stories,” said Tijerina-Santos.
“What they experience, and being treated as a person, and a person of value and the love that they feel, they remember that and they come back they want to create an environment so they can feel it all the time,” said Lisa Wrightsman with Street Soccer USA Sacramento.
Raphaella Foatanott will also be traveling to Wales. She didn’t wish to show her face on camera, given that she was once a victim of human trafficking.
Foatanott said she’s been able to get out of homelessness in this last year, thanks to the resources of the Street Soccer programs.
“It’s huge, just to take the opportunity and be here, I’ve never left the country before,” said Foatanott.
These women may have scars that won’t easily be forgotten, but soccer is giving them a second chance at life ready to channel their inner Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
“Hope and faith that’s all you need to hold on to, I just never gave up,” said Tijerina-Santos.
The women leave Wednesday for this week-long tournament in Cardiff. They say it’s less about winning for them, and more about the experience and showing the world there are creative ways to tackle homelessness.