Almost a year ago, they fled their homes to escape abuse.

After being picked up from the streets, given education, and put through six months of rigorous football practice, on Wednesday night, nine children from Karunalaya, an organisation that works for child rights, flew to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, to represent India at the Street Child World Cup (SCWC).

In this second edition of the world cup, scheduled to take place from March 28 to April 7, these children will fight it out against 15 other teams of boys from 18 countries.

Sixteen-year-old T. Gopinath, trying hard to control his emotions, says, “This is unthinkable for all of us. Our focus now is to come back with the cup and make everyone proud.”

Paul Sunder Singh, secretary of Karunalaya, said, “The last six months has been quite hectic and tiring for these children. They had an emotional farewell when they left our Karunalaya home this evening.”

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