Street Soccer NI, a charity working with the homeless and disadvantaged groups across Northern Ireland is delighted to announce that they will be taking a men and women’s team away to the Street Soccer 8 Nations Cup taking place in Dundee from 9th - 11th September.
Team NI who are supported this year by Simon Community NI, Choice Housing and Radius Housing will take on teams from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Ivory Coast, Afghanistan and Sweden. The venue at Caird Hall, City Square will engage with people right in the centre of the city, with two grand-stands, entertainment, food stalls and more available for players and spectators. Similar to the Homeless World Cup it will be a 4-aside tournament with each game lasting 14 minutes.
This event is an opportunity for players from Street Football projects across the globe to represent their country in our inaugural small-sided tournament. For many, this experience may be life-changing and will highlight the power that sport has to influence and make tangible, positive change.
Justin McMinn, CEO and Co-founder of Street Soccer NI said ‘’We’re so excited to be taking 16 players away again to represent their country in an amazing event. Playing in tournaments like this has a huge impact on the player’s lives as they go through weeks of support and training. Being involved in the team gives them a focus and all the encouragement they need to make positive changes in their lives.’’
Lawrence Jackson, Group Director of Corporate Service at Choice, “Choice have supported Street Soccer NI for a number of years and have been really impressed by the initiatives they run and the impact they have on people’s lives. The Home Nations Tournament provides a great opportunity for those affected by homelessness to develop new skills and friendships alongside dedicated support to improve their lives. We are delighted to be involved and wish our NI teams the very best of luck!”
Jim Dennison, CEO of Simon Community Northern Ireland ‘’We are delighted to once again be working with our friends at Street Soccer NI as they prepare for the 8 Nations Cup taking place in Dundee. Such health and wellbeing initiatives are important to those taking part as they provide opportunities for people who have or are experiencing homelessness to develop new skills, make new friends, grow their confidence, and develop a real sense of pride over their achievements. By taking part in this competition, the teams will play a huge part in raising awareness on the issues of homelessness and the cost-of-living crisis that is happening across Northern Ireland. Our charity wishes everyone the best of luck.”
Michael, 29, a player who has been involved with Street Soccer for over 5 year ‘When I first started Street Soccer I just came off class A drugs, I was nervous going at the start, but the guys made me feel really welcome. It made me more secure about myself. I struggled with my mental health and I used to self-harm but since being involved it’s kept me on the right path and give me things to do every day. I attend 4 or 5 days a week and volunteer with them. Being selected for the team is one of the biggest achievements of my life, as I never finished school. My kids will have something to tell people about, that their daddy represented Northern Ireland. I’m really Looking forward to meeting new people and enjoying the experience of being away.’’
Winta, 25, a refugee from Eritrea who’s been involved with Street Soccer for around 1 year ‘’I had to leave my country due to the government, I didn’t feel safe there anymore. Women are forced to go the army in Eritrea, I was sent to prison once for not turning up on time when called up. I left Eritrea and went through many countries like Sudan, Libya and Spain on my own which was very scary, then I ended up here Belfast. I lived in a hotel in Belfast for 6 months, we were looked after very well. This is where I heard about Street Soccer. It means so much to me, the people are very nice. It helped me a lot when my mum was sick, it makes me happy when I play with street soccer. Back home due to government and culture you don’t get a chance to play football. I’m very excited to be going to Scotland to meet new people and enjoy the football. I would like to be a coach one day, that’s my dream.’’
Street Soccer NI works with over 200 people every week across Northern Ireland offering free access to weekly football sessions for men and women. Once players engage in the football they get offered support with housing, employment, education, addictions and more. They currently have weekly sessions in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Downpatrick and Coleraine.