How football overcame fear for former Homeless World Cup player

Barrie John Rogers

Age: 38

Up until the age of 34, Welsh man Barrie John suffered with such crippling anxiety and schizophrenia that he was virtually unable to leave his house.

After serving time in prison, Barrie John spent only one week back at home before being admitted to a psychiatric care hospital in Cardiff. With his mental health deteriorating significantly, he had started to feel as if the world was a very scary place and people were against him.

But that’s when Barrie John made the decision to turn his life around.

Taking time to receive the care he needed, Barrie John wanted to rebuild his confidence and joined a local football league in Aberdare in the south Wales valleys. There he heard about Street Football Wales, a football league for people suffering with homelessness and social exclusion.

Encouraged by his support workers, he went along to a training session in Dowlais, Merthyr, a real moment of bravery for a man whose anxiety is triggered by travelling any kind of distance.

Over the next 6 months he attended training with Street Football Wales every week, first with the help of his support workers, and eventually on his own.

Slowly life started to change for Barrie John. For the first time ever he was part of a team, he was exercising regularly and was beginning to realise that the world wasn’t such a bad place.

Not only that, his flair on the pitch had been spotted by Street Football Wales manager Keri Harris, who selected him to play in the Homeless World Cup in Santiago, Chile in 2014.

Just a few months later, the man who had been too scared to even leave his home in Aberdare, and found even a short bus journey intimidating, boarded a plane to south America to play for his country.

And even more incredibly Barrie John made the long journey without the help of his support workers, who, along with his new Street Football Wales family, had provided him with the support to get this far.

There’s no doubt that his experiences with Street Football Wales and at the Homeless World Cup in Santiago have changed Barrie John’s life. He is still battling his personal mental health issues every day, but one place that will always provide him with the safety and solace he needs is the football pitch.

Barrie John has now been picked to be a volunteer referee at this year’s tournament in Cardiff from Saturday 27th July – Saturday 3rd August.

Watch Barrie John’s film here.