Sadock John, from robbing houses to a football World Cup | Football

Sadock John grew up on the streets of Tanzania, played football and was a member of many gangs that broke into houses.

He said that his father was a very rich man, but his life changed when he left the family. Here, John shares his journey from the streets of Tanzania to represent the country at the Street Child United World Cup and how football has changed him.

My father was a goalkeeper for an army team in his village. My brothers also play football, so the sport is like I’m following in their footsteps.

I was raised by a single mother in Mwanza after my father abandoned the family. He is one of the richest people on my street. When he left, our life became very difficult. My mother does all the work but most of the time she is sick and I have to go out and find anything to put food on the table for the family.

I am the fifth of six boys in the family. Life on the street is hard. You have to steal, do anything, to survive.

Playing on the street was fun because it was a way to stop everything else and take the stress out of me.

Sadock football training
According to John, being a street kid is not the end of the journey [Courtesy: Street Child United]

Being a child on the street is like being physically free but in a mental prison. You have to survive, find food, shelter and do everything on your own. Sometimes, you don’t even trust the person who is very close to you. Anyone can be your enemy and anyone can be a friend. That’s how it goes on the street.

I am this little kid, small and smart, I think. And that’s why the big boys like me. They spent a lot of time with me. They want me in their gang and use me to break into the house through the window.

I was small enough to squeeze through, get inside and open the door so we could steal. That’s the way it was. People think street kids are bad and that’s why they don’t want to be around them but that’s not always the case.

I was selected to play for Team Tanzania at the 2010 Street Child United World Cup.

Football made me realize that life is more than what it was then. I’m not ashamed to share my story, of how I ended up on the street and how I got up from there.

Being a street kid is not the end of the journey. You can get there if you focus on what you want. For me, it’s football.

Sadock in his clothing store
John currently runs a clothing store selling his own brand [Courtesy Street Child United]

Before the World Cup, I didn’t know there were street kids outside of Tanzania. But I saw a lot of people from richer countries and that was the first lesson I learned at the tournament.

When I returned, life began to change. I am no longer called a street kid, but a role model. Other parents want me to be close to their children, they want me to talk to them about my experiences.

Coaching football also improves my mental health. I’m happy to do that and listen to their stories that I can relate to too.

As a child, I dreamed of becoming a football player. That’s my main goal, to play at a higher level, to be successful. But I have to take care of my family and earn money.

That’s why I didn’t succeed in football. In my community, when you play football, if you get old and don’t give money to your family, people start talking and saying you’re wasting your time.

Football was my dream but when I grew up I knew I wanted to be a businessman and an actor and that’s what I focus on right now.

Now I live about 30 minutes from where I grew up. I own a clothing store. My father passed away in 2005 and my mother passed away last year.

I have come a huge step from where I am to where I am now. I was in a situation where I needed someone else’s help. Mentally, I don’t think I’ve recovered 100% from the street experience. My father died in 2005 but it will take me another 12 years to forgive him for what he did to us and for all the trouble in my life.

I am also looking after a football academy that my friend founded. We work with young boys and girls, and this year began working with families and listening to the challenges they face.

As told to Faras Ghani.

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