This week we welcomed our boys back from Warsaw, Poland where they competed in a very special football world cup.
The world cup competition was open exclusively to boys, like ours, who live in group homes. Teams from 29 countries were represented. Our boys, who have rarely ventured out of Klong Toey, competed against teams from Poland, Russia, Macedonia, Tunisia, Hungary and Belarus. How cool was that!!!
Getting kids who live in a shelter on a plane to Poland is not easy. Not one of our boys had ever been abroad or carried a passport. While some Mercy boys are orphans and legally under our guardianship, others have parents or legal guardians living far from Mercy Centre. A few boys were missing their birth certificates and identity cards. Fortunately we were able to retrieve essential documents, get all the necessary signatures, and even funding costs, which were provided by by the the tournament organizers and friends of Mercy.
This was the third year our Mercy boys participated in the world cup. But we didn’t send the same group of boys as last year or the year before. And we didn’t put together a team of our most competitive athletes.
Each year we assemble a different team of players so as many Mercy boys as possible can experience a world beyond Mercy. They can open their eyes to different cultures; meet boys just like themselves from around the world; and have a blast in the process.
We didn’t care if our boys won our not. That was not the point. They were younger and much smaller than their competitors. Still they tied one team, and they played with joy, valor, and skill against every team they faced.
Between matches, they explored Warsaw like VIPs: one day they dined as the guest of the Thai Ambassador in Poland at his residence and on another day they received a private tour of the Janusz Korczak Museum. (We have a school in our Mercy Centre named after Janusz Korczak, a hero to poor children around the world). A third off-the-pitch highlight: our boys dined in Warsaw’s most acclaimed Thai restaurant.
One of our boys, Baht, who is usually mischievous, was remarkably well behaved (and awestruck) throughout his stay in Poland. Back home in Mercy, he remarked, “It was like a dream, starting with the flight, which was the first time any of us had ever flown. And when it landed, we discovered worlds we could never imagine. Even the Thai food tasted different! The best part was about making new friends with so many boys from other countries. We couldn’t understand the different languages so we spoke in gestures. It was amazing!”
Indeed, we are so happy for them, and proud!
Our boys receive a private tour of the Janusz Korczak Museum in Poland.