Thanks to the global sportswear brand, Street Soccer Scotland can ensure that everyone is equal on the football pitch and that players experiencing homelessness or social exclusion have adequate gear to wear to training and matches. They also hope the shirts will help to build a sense of belonging and team spirit.
The specially-designed shirts, featuring a message of ‘hope’, have been worn for the first time by two promising players from Street Soccer Scotland. A total of two thousand ‘Hope Rising’ shirts will be provided to players.
David Duke, CEO and founder of Street Soccer Scotland, said:
“It’s a fantastic gesture from Nike, and we really appreciate it. Some people might question the difference a football shirt can make to a person who is homeless or facing difficult times, but as someone who has been there I know that it can spark something in an individual to give them hope for the future and the belief in themselves to keep going. A football shirt can bring pride, a sense of belonging and identity, no matter who you are or where you come from.
“By donating these shirts Nike will make a big difference in years to come. Every one of our players will be able to wear their shirt with pride, knowing they’re part of the Street Soccer Scotland family and that we’ve got their back, no matter what.
“The message on the front of the shirts is ‘hope’ and that’s what we try to build with our players every day.”
Tyler and Daniel who are both homeless in Edinburgh and have recently returned from representing Scotland in the Homelessness World Cup in Mexico, said the shirts were a great way to beat the stigma of homelessness and ensure equality and unity on the pitch.
Tyler, 17, said:
“When I first came to Street Soccer Scotland, I don’t think I’d ever kicked a football. I don’t ever remember being into football and I didn’t know what the off-side rule was. But I’m football mad now. I live for it and that’s a lot to do with what Street Soccer Scotland has done for me.
“They’ve given me a lot to live and hope for. For the first time in a long time I think things will get better and that maybe I won’t be in this situation forever.”
Tyler says that the support and camaraderie she gets from Street Soccer Scotland staff and players is what drives her to give it her all.
“I feel part of a family and get support and encouragement from all the guys, these shirts will just add to that. I’ve started to believe in myself and my ability to do anything I set my mind to. I’m at college now and want to get a job, earn some money and just be a regular 17-year-old.”
Despite being only 17, Tyler has words of advice to anyone facing homelessness:
“The only way to get through it is to believe that things will get better and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If the guys at Street Soccer Scotland have shown me one thing it’s that there are people out there who care about me and don’t expect a thing in return. They’re proud of me no matter what and that makes me proud of myself.
“A few years ago, I wasn’t thinking about the future. I didn’t think I had one. Today I feel like I’ve got a lot of good things to live for, to work hard for. And if you compare that to where I’ve come from, that’s a hell of a lot.”
Before becoming homeless Daniel, 22, was a talented footballer and had trials with professional football clubs.
“I’ve always been into sports and keeping fit, but being homeless meant my health started to suffer. When you’ve hit rock bottom at first you have the drive and hope to bring yourself out of it. You’ve got the fight in you to keep trying. But after a while, when you keep trying and things aren’t getting better, you think about giving up hope. There’s only so many knocks a person can take.”
“Things got better for me when I heard about Street Soccer Scotland. It gave me hope and a family I could rely on. The guys genuinely care about us and try to help in whatever way they can. Some of them have been where we are today so hearing their stories really helps. They’re role models and tell us all the time that things can get better in the second half. That applies to life I guess. Never give up hope.
“Football was always my passion and I’ve been so lucky to find Street Soccer Scotland. Right now, I’m as fit as I’ve ever been. I’ve just come back from Mexico where I represented Scotland in the Homeless World Cup. It was an amazing experience, especially because everyone there has been through similar things. There was no shame or stigma on the pitch – it was all about the football and that’s the way it should be.”
Founded in 2009, Street Soccer Scotland is a social enterprise which uses football inspired training and personal development as a medium to empower people who are affected by social exclusion, to make positive changes in their lives. Their aim is to create purpose, hope and relationships using football to support people on their journey to security and happiness. Street Soccer Scotland runs free informal football drop in sessions all across Scotland.