For many players, the Homeless World Cup is a celebration of their transition out of homelessness. But for some players, their experience with homelessness is more recent or even current.
The latter is the case for Ireland player Christine Geoghegan, who was in danger of losing her hard-fought hostel accommodation as she headed to the Homeless World Cup.
“I was at risk of losing my bed because I was coming away for the 10 days,” she says. “Even though I was doing something positive. We sorted it out and my bed is secure until I get back, but you never know, like you just don’t know when you’re in hostels.”
24-year-old Geoghegan has experienced homelessness on and off for the past three or four years, moving from hostel to hostel in that time.
“It started off when I was maybe 15. I started hanging around the wrong crowd, drinking, started taking drugs. From there on I was bringing nothing but trouble home all the time,” she says. “I decided myself to move out when I was 16, and I was away down in the country with some fella, engaged. Just being young and stupid. But since moving out I haven’t really had a place to call home.”
Though better than sleeping rough, the hostels aren’t entirely safe and can often be quite violent.
“I got attacked by a few girls,” Geoghegan says. “It’s not a place to be in, you know? Especially when you’re in recovery as well. It’s not a good place to be in.”
Fortunately she has been moved to another hostel, and she now has her own room and bathroom and can lock her door to keep her belongings secure.
“But there’s still drug use everywhere. You have people using left, right and centre, and of course there are going to be triggers everywhere…It’s hard enough staying sober in everyday life. It’s just that bit harder when it’s around you every day.”
Football has helped tremendously during this time.
Geoghegan found out about the Irish street football program because her brother Jamie played there and even represented Ireland in the 2016 Homeless World Cup in Glasgow. She, her sister, and Jamie’s fiancé flew to Scotland to cheer him on.
“But we stayed for one day and we brought the rain and the bad luck, because they lost two matches and it just rained all day. We were told to get back on the plane and go home,” she laughs.
Still, having witnessed the Homeless World Cup in action and being reminded just how much she loved playing football, Geoghegan headed down to her local training programme.
“That’s what kept me going. So I was showing up every week for training. It just started from there.”
But for her to then get to represent Ireland at the 2017 Homeless World Cup? She says: “To be here is like a dream come true…No drink or drug will ever touch the high that you get when you play football. And the achievements that you get going through it, and the people that you meet…You meet lifelong friends. It’s brilliant.
“The girls are amazing,” she says. “There are some really brilliant players. They’re all amazing. They really are. And even off the pitch, they’re really good people. Like I said: lifelong friends.”
Geoghegan sustained a knee injury on the eve of the tournament that has kept her from taking to the pitch. Although frustrated at not being able to play, she’s supporting the team from the sidelines and making the most of her Homeless World Cup experience by soaking up the atmosphere and meeting people from other countries.
Her brother has also been in touch with her to say he’s proud of how far she’s come. And, she says, “I’ll be back at football as soon as I get the word ‘go’. I’ll be straight back in.”
Football aside, when she returns home Geoghegan will continue with her part-time cleaning work and working towards securing her own home. “Because for me, when I have my own place I can have peace of mind,” she says. “I can go out and lock my door and know that my things are safe. I can go home when I want. I’m not on a curfew.
“But it is what it is,” she says. “I’m still in a hostel and I’m going to keep fighting for my own place. I have to get out eventually, you know.”
Words: Fiona Crawford
Images: Romain Kedochim