Belfast Telegraph

Street league aims to give deprivation the red card

By Michael Bashford

North Belfast MLA Fred Cobain has commended the soon to be launched Belfast Street League, which he says will act as “a significant, and very worthwhile, step towards social inclusion”.

Street League is a charity run programme that's set up to change people’s lives for the better through the power of football.

Players in the Street League include homeless people, ex-offenders, drug and alcohol dependent individuals, long-term unemployed, refugees and asylum seekers and other disadvantaged groups.

“The launch of a homeless football league in Belfast is very welcome, particularly given the success of such projects in Dublin, Glasgow and across the globe,” Mr Cobain said. “The result of these initiatives has been to change the lives of some three quarters of participants.

“Homelessness is a cross-cutting issue that cannot simply be solved by building houses. For this reason, work by groups such as the East Belfast Mission is very important.

“For many of those who will be involved in this programme, homelessness is just one of the causes of social exclusion, which might also include poverty, unemployment, mental health problems and drug and alcohol misuse. This is an important step towards changing their lives for the better.”

The Belfast Street League is a five-a-side football league based on an internationally proven development model with already established leagues in London, Glasgow and Dublin.

The first Northern Ireland Street League will kick off on Friday, February 5, at Shaftesbury Recreation Centre from 1pm. The league will last eight weeks and run three times a year. The league, which is made up of 11 teams, consists of homeless hostels and organisations supporting vulnerable people from around Northern Ireland.

The league champions will be presented with a trophy and medals by a famous footballer at the end of the competition.

The top three finished teams will also be selected to represent Northern Ireland for the first time in the Big Issue All Ireland Championships taking place in Dublin in April.

Participants will also get a chance to be selected for Ireland in the upcoming 2010 Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in September.

Street League coordinator Justin McMinn said: “This would be a dream come true for any player taking part in Street League.

“Although there will be tough competition, we hope to have a player from Northern Ireland make it into the Ireland squad and represent the country in the Homeless World Cup for the first time.”

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