In 2003, I was working for the Big Issue Cymru where I was first introduced to street football. I supported and led the team of homeless footballers to the inaugural world cup tournament in Austria. After the tournament and returning to Wales, I was determined that Wales should have a social inclusion initiative that used football as a tool to engage with socially excluded people, so I set up Street Football Wales (SFW).
I spent nearly 10 years running SFW on a voluntary basis whilst working full time and using annual leave to deliver monthly match days, cup competitions and attending tournaments. On evenings and weekends I spent every waking hour dedicating my time to SFW. There were certainly fun and tough times but working with the team and the players was truly inspirational and it’s what kept me going – it was my motivation.
We have had the opportunity to attend the Homeless World Cup in various countries every year since 2003, but this is always a challenge and it's difficult to attend all of these events due to funding issues, time and minimal support. However, in 2011, SFW signed a partnership agreement with Gwalia and were awarded 3 years of Big Lottery funding allowing SFW to expand and to provide more support to clients as well as being able to attend and participate in the Homeless World Cup events in Mexico and Poland.
SFW has come a long way since 2003. We now have four leagues in Swansea, Newport, Colwyn Bay and Merthyr Tydfil where we play one match a month. We also provide weekly sports sessions for participants as well as a 10 week training and education programme – our football gateway programme where clients learn maths and English through football including the different roles of employment within a football club. We support over 900 clients across Wales throughout any one year and we really do have a positive impact on each of their lives.
Every year we select two teams of 8 players, one male and one female, to represent Wales in the Homeless World Cup. Last year we went to Poland and, this year, we are fundraising for both of our football teams to go to Chile. At SFW we are very busy increasing funds as well as raising awareness. From bucket collections and cake sales to sky dives and half marathons, we are pulling out all the stops to get the funds we need to get to Chile.
Please get behind us and support SFW. Thank you.
Keri Harris, Project Leader
Street Football Wales
If you're interested in donating to the Street Football Wales cause and helping to send two teams to the Homeless World Cup, you can do so here.