by Mariana Mercado
While watching the Homeless World Cup matches, it is easy to forget that the players come from challenging environments. Often they face problems with substance abuse, violence and homelessness. The smiles on the pitch not only represent a goal scored or a match won, they are also a sign of regained hope.
Thirty-year-old Jamie Maclean understands firsthand the power that hope can have in changing someone’s life. Six years ago, Jamie had a chance to participate at the Homeless World Cup, “I was actually initially picked for the 2009 squad that would compete in Milan,” he says. “Back then I was still in my addiction, which prevented me from attending, so I missed out on that.” After that disappointment, Jamie’s life continued to change for the worse. “I just came to a place where I was always in and out of prison all the time for years. I couldn’t stop drinking and taking drugs. My mum was in recovery at the time, and I went to her for help. I couldn’t deal with life any more. She started taking me to AA meetings, and I’ve been attending since 2010.”
Jamie has since come a long way: He now works for SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) where he channels his own experience to help others in similar situations. “I work with people with mental health problems and addiction. Through my own experiences I’ve been able to turn that around and help other people that come through the same sort of cycle.”
“I think a great part of it is being able to identify with people. If somebody is talking to me and I can relate to them, I can explain how they’re feeling, because I know the emotions they probably went through, and people are more open to tell you how they feel.“
Being in Amsterdam means the world to Jamie, “Everything I’ve done in life,” he says. “I always wanted to turn around full circle from where I was, and in 2009 my recovery started. Before that I had the same opportunity, and I lost it. But now, I came through the other side, overcoming addiction and now helping people with similar problems. To be able to come back to do this now and have my family watching me in the TV and online is brilliant. It makes me feel proud.”
In one week, Jamie has met Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, traveled to Amsterdam to compete at the Homeless World Cup, and met Colin Farrell, but these won’t be the biggest things for Jamie this year: he will become a father to a baby girl this December. And even though he hasn’t been able to find a flat for him and his girlfriend to raise their baby girl, he is full of hope for the future.
“After Amsterdam, I’ll go back to everyday life with pride and a bit of achievement. Life still goes on regardless. And there will be fulfillment in my own life.”
Photography by Paul Bence.