Thursday 05 December 2013
Norwich City Community Sports Foundation's Street Life Soccer project helps vulnerably housed and homeless people in the community of the Barclays Premier League club by looking to give their lives meaning and direction through the opportunity to take part in weekly football matches, employability skills sessions and qualifications.
"I was drinking from the very second I woke up to the moment I went to sleep"
In the case of the group at Norwich City Community Sports Foundation, which regularly uses the Barclays Spaces for Sports site at Carrow Park, four of the participants have gone on to represent England at the Homeless World Cup and a number are taking football coaching qualifications.
Street Life Soccer is a project that has helped numerous individuals who have fallen on hard times, such as Lee Thompson, a 37-year-old from Liverpool, whose life took an unfortunate turn after he split from his partner in 2009.
"I was drinking from the very second I woke up to the moment I went to sleep," Thompson told the Norwich Community Sports Foundation website. "It consumed my entire life and drink became my only thought. I'd split with my girlfriend and drinking, mixed with drug use, was my only escape from the depression I was suffering."
Thompson's drink problem and pain in his back and legs rendered him unable to work as a forklift driver and, with no income, the aspiring footballer's alcohol dependency cost him the chance to trial at a professional football club. He then slipped into a life of crime.
"I missed out on football trials with Blackpool because of the trouble I was in, including a period in prison for robbery," he said.
However, when Thompson found out about the Street Life Soccer programme, which provides structured football coaching and educational workshops for homeless and vulnerably housed people in the area, his life found a new direction.
"The CSF coaches were really supportive and helped me so much"
Attending weekly sessions at the Community Sports Foundation's (CSF) Carrow Park facility, Thompson found a group of friends who shared similar problems and interests and quickly began to feel comfortable in the programme.
"The CSF coaches were really supportive and helped me so much in the early stages," Thompson said. "I must especially thank Gavin Coe who was a coach at some of my first sessions."
In recognition of such important community work, Barclays, the title sponsors of the Barclays Premier League, invited some of the Street Life coaches to meet Norwich City manager Chris Hughton and the club's striker Johan Elmander at Carrow Road. The coaches got the chance to ask Hughton and Elmander on life in the Barclays Premier League as well as to experience a behind-the-scenes tour around the stadium.
"This season Barclays is saying thank you to community heroes across the UK who help make the Barclays Premier League what it is today," said David Wheldon, managing director of brand, reputation and citizenship at Barclays. "Football is a great way to bring people together and teach important values such as teamwork.
"The coaches of the Street Life Soccer scheme work hard to change lives in the community and deserve this day out as a thank you for their dedication."
Marc Campbell, from Norwich City Community Sports Foundation, said: "We are all absolutely buzzing to be here today and to have a Q&A with Chris and Johan. It is a great reward for our work, and a brilliant motivator for the group."
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/barclaysfootball and join the conversation to thank community heroes with #YouAreFootball.