Hampden Park in Glasgow is one of the 11 venues across Europe that hosted matches for Euro 2020. We spoke to our partner, non-for-profit organisation Street Soccer Scotland, to find out about what’s going on beyond the stadium.
“Football has changed so many lives, including my own.”
Andy Byrne is a player turned volunteer with Street Soccer Scotland. He’s in good company, there are more than 65 former participants who now volunteer for the organisation, using their skills and life experience to support others.
Andy grew up in Glasgow, his mum died when he was young and his dad struggled with alcohol. He describes himself as an “angry child” who was “lost and confused.” Wanting to be accepted and without support at home, Andy started to drink and take drugs. He also joined a local gang and stopped going to school. His mental health declined, resulting in him feeling suicidal. A game of football was the first step in his recovery.
“I wanted to die. Constantly it was just despair. Not wanting to wake up in the morning. But Street Soccer came into my life. It totally transformed things and opened up new doors for me and I started to get the love back for football.”
Sessions run by Street Soccer Scotland create structure and give players like Andy an opportunity to make a positive change.
“Through the sessions, my fitness improved, as did my mental health. I was building positive relationships with people. It made me really feel good about me, built my self-esteem and self-worth.”
Andy was happy to see the return of contact sport in Scotland as Covid restrictions eased. Grassroots football was finally back. Street Soccer Scotland’s drop-in sessions at pitches in Glasgow and across Scotland were able to resume just as warm-up began and football fever took hold for Scotland’s first major tournament in 23 years.
In 2020 they supported more than 4,000 people across the country through a combination of online and in person sessions.
Another pull to join sessions is the chance to represent Scotland at the Homeless World Cup. Street Soccer Scotland have brought teams to the tournament every year since the inaugural competition in 2003, winning in Copenhagen in 2007 and Paris in 2011.
HOMELESSNESS IN SCOTLAND
Homelessness is a growing problem in Scotland, with numbers rising year on year. According to homeless charity Shelter, every 19 minutes a household in Scotland becomes homeless. Nearly half of homeless applications in 2019-2020 were single men (46%).*
Andy says the situation in Glasgow reflects the national statistics.
“Personally, I believe the homelessness situation in Glasgow has definitely got worse over the years – Covid hasn’t helped matters. There is now a younger generation who struggle with their housing situations in 2021 and there is now a greater need for a support network, which Street Soccer can fortunately provide.”
“I believe the future looks promising, there is some great work going on which needs highlighting a bit more, because there is no doubt that the power of football has changed so many lives, including my own.
“Street Soccer Scotland has transformed my life. The influence they had was massive and I can’t thank the coaches, the players, the organisation enough in helping me on my journey to full time employment.”
Street Soccer Scotland is expanding and will soon be running new sessions in Stirling and in the Scottish borders. While Scotland might be out of the Euros, a national love of football is still changing lives and bringing people together across the country.
*Source: Shelter Scotland
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If you want to find out more about Street Soccer Scotland’s work, please visit their website: https://www.streetsoccerscotland.org/