A group of footballers from Salford who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are to play in a national tournament at the London Stadium.
They will be one of ten teams from across the country competing for the Football For Good Trophy at the ground that hosted the London 2012 Olympic Games and is now home to West Ham United.
The team members are participants in the Street Soccer Academy at Salford City’s Foundation 92, which is a ten-week personal development course centred around football, incorporating positive mindset training, mentoring support, football coaching and employability workshops.
The 18 to 30-year olds taking part in the tournament include those currently experiencing homelessness and young people not in education, employment or training.
Among them is Foundation 92 team member Leroy Puvitanda Kakokhe, who said: “The course gives us all something to focus on besides what is going on in our personal lives at the moment.
“The football academy and whole programme is doing a good job because it is bringing us together as one – not only the football aspect, but also regarding mental health and how we should live with and interact with one another.
“It has created a beautiful community.”
His team-mate Robert Maritiwtishi said: “Playing football motivates me to socialise with others and separates me from the troubles in my personal life.
“The final tournament is already ours – even outside of the football pitch, us boys are always working towards a win.
“We are prepared and we are in the mood to make it ours.”
As well as competing for the Football For Good trophy in the five-a-side tournament, some participants will also be able to take part in one of the very first EA Sports FC 24 gaming tournaments, being hosted in a gaming arena within the London Stadium by GAME in partnership with Microsoft.
Earlier this year, Foundation 92’s Street Soccer Academy participants were runners up in the Street Soccer National Cup, held at St George’s Park, which is the training base for England’s national football teams.
This time, they are looking to go one step further and bring the trophy back to Salford.
Phil Hughes, Foundation 92 Street Soccer Academy coach, said: “The Street Soccer Academy programme has been valuable in providing a good way for the participants to socialise with their peers in a positive environment and it allows them to gain skills to work towards something huge – competing in the London Stadium.
“This gives the participants something to look forward to and allows them to enhance their growth opportunities in the UK.”
The tournament on Sunday, 19 November, will mark International Football For Good Day, when communities in the 56 Commonwealth member countries are invited to organise football-related activities where they live.
This collaboration will celebrate football’s ability to transform communities through youth development, education, peace and unity and is the culmination of the Football For Good initiative, which was launched in August as a partnership between the Street Soccer Foundation, the Commonwealth and Catalyst in Communities.
Keith Mabbutt, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Street Soccer Foundation, said: “We have witnessed through our programmes the positive impact football can have in the lives of young people – from creating friendships, boosting their confidence, giving them a new purpose and aiding their physical and mental health.
“Our Football For Good initiative will harness that power to bring communities together in celebration of the Commonwealth Year of Youth and we are delighted to partner with the Commonwealth and others on this exciting new global movement.”
Murangi Mgutijwa, who is part of the Foundation 92 team, said the course had introduced him to new experiences, including the chance to play at a Premier League stadium.
He said: “We have trained really hard and I believe we can do it. I just want to win the trophy – it will be amazing.”
The event at the London Stadium will connect with similar football events going on across the Commonwealth on 19 November, through live streaming and social media, to form a global celebration.
Young people taking part in the Football For Good Day tournament are from ten Street Soccer Academies representing: West Ham United Foundation, Chelsea FC Foundation, Sheffield United Community Foundation, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, Hully City’s Tigers Trust, Everton in the Community, Sunderland FC Foundation of Light, Leicester City in the Community, Liverpool’s LFC Foundation and Salford City’s Foundation 92.
The Street Soccer Foundation was founded in 2015 and runs football-inspired projects including its flagship academies, educational programmes, tournaments and holiday camps for vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people.
For more information about the Street Soccer Foundation, visit www.streetsoccerfoundation.org.uk