FIFPRO Fair Play Award winner Nikolas Figueroa has gone from being sleeping in abandoned buildings to representing Australia at the Homeless World Cup.
Australia didn’t have the best football teams at the 2019 tournament in Cardiff but Figueroa and his teammates showed their class by cheering for other teams and even applauding their opponent’s goals, earning them a FIFPRO Fair Play Award.
“We want to involve everyone, fair play is very important to us," Figueroa said. "That is the way we do our street soccer program. For our team, it was very moving to receive the Fair Play Award.”
Figueroa was born in Canberra. When he was still a one-year-old toddler his parents moved back to their native Chile. When he was 20, Figueroa returned to Australia. For three months, he was homeless. “I could not find a job,” he said.
Figueroa’s life changed when he found out about the Big Issue magazine, which help homeless earn a living, and organizes football training.
“They welcomed me with open arms and the coach hugged me. I jumped at the chance to play football.”
Figueroa kept returning to the program, which helped him find a home, a job and enroll on a university degree course. Figueroa’s life has drastically changed. “I organize music festivals and live with my beautiful girlfriend and our cat. We are saving to buy a house.”
Figueroa still visits the Big Issue program. “I go because there is always someone who is going through what I went through. I encourage them to play, find a job and a house and tell them I went through the same. I can help you. We can help you."
FIFPRO is an enthusiastic partner of the Homeless World Cup. The annual week-long football tournament brings together more than 500 players who have faced homelessness and marginalization.
Competing in a purpose-built stadium in the heart of the host city, the players represent over 50 countries from around the world in a celebration of the joy of football. The tournament always attracts large crowds throughout the week, with millions more watching online.