Football is, as they say, the beautiful game. All around the world it brings people together in so many different ways, and whether you understand the offside rule or not, being part of a crowd of people witnessing a strike that reaches the back of the net is something that thousands, if not millions of people, are part of at that moment.
Homelessness on the other hand puts people in completely opposite situations. Loneliness, fear, and worry are things that we commonly associate with being homeless, and for some getting themselves back on their feet takes a long time.
Street Football Wales is, for all intents and purposes, a combination of the two. They were awarded a grant of £394,643 from The National Lottery Community Fund to support over 3,000 people who have been made homeless through football and other sports, and to provide training courses, advice surgeries, and volunteering opportunities and supported work placements. We went to visit the project at one of their training sessions in Llangyfelach, Swansea. The charity told us:
“Street Football Wales is a social inclusion charity that uses football to work with socially excluded people, bringing them together once a month in different areas around Wales. We work on confidence, self-esteem, physical fitness and mental health and it’s having a fantastic impact on the people that we work with. Thank you to the National Lottery we wouldn’t be here with the support of the funding we’ve had.”
We spoke to Susie from Neath, one of the project’s participants, who said: “I’ve been involved in Street Football Wales since 2017. That year I was selected to play for Wales in the Homeless World Cup out in Norway and it was absolutely incredible; there’s no feeling like it when you put that badge on for your country. I’ve continued to play in the league with my own team, Pool Panthers, and I’ve just passed my referee course and been selected to be a referee at the Homeless World Cup in Wales this year.
“This project makes a massive difference for people who have come from all different backgrounds and religions and so on. It’s so non-judgemental, I’ve seen people come from the worst places that you could ever be and I look at them now, a few months or a couple of years on, and it’s incredible. It’s had a massive impact on my life and my mental health, and I could never thank them enough. I play every month and the support is incredible. Thank you to the National Lottery for funding this, and our lovely new kits, and for making this happen.”
Alex Davies from our Mid and West team, said: “With the Homeless World Cup in Wales being held just around the corner there’s undoubtedly going to be a huge spotlight on the issue of tackling homelessness. Being able to see the amazing work that Street Football Wales do to help people get back on their feet, and to see the smiles on people’s faces as they come together to play sport is fantastic. It’s clear to see that National Lottery funding is making such a difference to people’s lives when you can see them smile knowing that they’re not alone, they’re part of a team.”
The Homeless World Cup is being held between July 27th and August 3rd. For more information about Street Football Wales, visit their website.