October 03, 2012

Scottish Street Soccer World Champions look to retain trophy in Mexico City

Scottish football in the doldrums? Think again!
Scotland are two time and current world champions in the Homeless World Cup and this month they head to Mexico and retain a trophy that our senior national squad can only dream about. 70 countries will take part in the 2012 competition in order to raise awareness of homelessness throughout the world. Through Edinburgh-based social outreach project Street Soccer Scotland, homeless and socially excluded individuals are able to participate in this international tournament and do their country proud. Street Soccer Scotland was founded by Glaswegian David Duke, who was once homeless himself and now campaigns to improve the lives of homeless people through football within communities. David assumed the role of manager last year for the Scottish Homeless World Cup team, and new manager ex-Rangers player Ally Dawson plans to lead them to victory in the upcoming 2012 tournament in Mexico City. “The guys have been working hard and training. It’s a big step going somewhere like Mexico, we’ve done well in Europe so far,” said David proudly. “They’re ready to go and do their country proud, they can give it their best shot and we will support them all the way.” Trials were held across Scotland in recent months, with the best homeless footballers from across the country selected for the squad. The Homeless World Cup doesn’t let the same players play more than one year at the tournament, giving other people an opportunity to make a difference and represent their country. “We believe the experience of the Homeless World Cup shouldn't just be of football, but a life- changing experience of next steps on to a positive destination,” said David. “Each year, a new player comes in and has the chance at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Street Soccer Scotland runs programmes all year round and focuses on giving individuals skills that can be transferable from the pitch into other environments. The group build on people’s trust, communication skills and confidence in order to help them integrate back into society. The organisation promotes football as a method of helping vulnerable people overcome addictions and social barriers, providing them with a past time that will keep them busy and encourage them to change their lives for the better. When it comes to whether the Scotland squad can win the coveted trophy once again, David is hopeful, but aware that the country's previous success might go against the new team. “It’ll be tough – any team going over as champions, each team that plays you thinks ‘we’re playing against the champions.’ "There were some times last year the game could have gone either way. “They pulled through and worked hard as a team. If this year’s team can do the same, with a bit of luck they can go all the way.” The new squad are also banking on a win, but nervous of the competition. Mark Stack, captain of this year’s team, is getting ready to set off for Mexico – a country he has learned of only in documentaries - to guide the team to victory. “I think we can win, definitely,” said Mark, 35. “We’ve got some really good guys on the team, so I think our chances are good.” Mark, who is originally from Coatbridge, became homeless after developing a heroin dependency. While living on the streets, he used to sleep wherever he could lay his head down for the night, whether that was in a close, an alleyway or a skip. After a spell in a rehabilitation centre and working with Narcotics Anonymous, Mark found Street Soccer Scotland and began to turn his life around through football. “From what I was then to what I am now is like night and day. Everything about myself – my confidence, self esteem, being able to interact with people has improved. “Before, I was dead into myself. Now I’m comfortable with other people. It’s benefitted me immensely. “My family and friends are over the moon. Before it was just grief I was giving them, now it’s good news. They’re happy I’m happy and getting on with my life.” The Homeless World Cup tournament will kick-off on October 6, with the final being held on October 14.
Source STV & Street Soccer Scotland

You can follow Marc on Twitter @myscottishfitba

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