Last year, a team of student physiotherapists from a Danish university came to Mexico to help out at the Homeless World Cup. This year, they have returned to the event in Poznan together with a Norwegian partner college. Ten students, five Danish and five Norwegian, and their respective mentors Jannick Marschall and Hilde Sylliaas, have been seeing to the physical therapy needs of all the players in the tournament – not just those of their own countries.
Andreas Bjerregaard, a student at Metropolitan University College in Copenhagen, was in Mexico City last year performing the same function and he explained how the team of physios work. “We have a clinic at our school and we work sometimes with Ombold (the Danish street soccer organisation) to screen and treat players. Last year we fundraised ourselves and went to Mexico, which was a fantastic experience.”
“This year we have a new partnership with a university in Norway. There are ten students, five from each country, and a mentor for each. All of the students have half a year left in their studies and want to give more and see other kinds of clients.”
Professor Jannick Marschall described the students’ participation in the Homeless World Cup as ‘a learning experience’. “We see all kinds of injuries; major injuries like dislocated shoulders and broken fingers, and then after the first few days, heavy legs and muscle fatigue as these players play many games. We work between five and ten hours a day, opening at 11 and closing at five but yesterday, for example, it wasn’t until half past six that everyone was seen to.”
The team brought all of their own equipment and eight of them stay in their own designated centre at the tournament site, while two remain at the pitches to help the tournament’s medical team. It is up to them to decide whether injured players can play on, or if they need to go to the physio centre or even to hospital.
“For the students it’s a chance to see different kinds of clients and to be a part of a bigger thing,” said Jannick. “And for the players too, we are here now but when they go back they might not have access to this level of treatment. They can see how it helps.”
As I spoke to the physio team, Phil from Team Canada was being treated for some bruising. “These guys are very good. I came here after a few days of the tournament and they have made my games a lot easier. They’re the oil behind the engine.”
A Norwegian student, Ardian Haziraj, says the practical experience helps them improve as physiotherapists. “It’s a great learning experience and good practice. We don’t have patients like this at home. We have to think quicker and use what we have.”
Hilde said that even she and Jannick, the professors of the group, learn every day and are looking forward to doing it all again next year in Chile.
Words by Amy Eustace