The lengths people are prepared to go to in order to support Street Soccer Academy never fails to amaze me. This was brought even more to the fore during our premier fund raising event, Soccer 24, a 24-hour football marathon that generates non-restrictive income so we may meet the needs of our precious service users.During the event friends, family, volunteers and associates of Street Soccer Academy are prepared to put themselves through physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, all in aid of supporting our work. Of course, the most important aspect is the fund raising but when it comes to the event itself it is a simple case of mind overcoming body, getting through and finishing the event strongly. As well as physical pain, aching muscles and blisters being commonplace, there is the mental torture of combatting a severe lack of sleep whilst attempting to physically perform at a competitive level. Witnessing people going through this experience on our behalf is truly humbling.
From the moment I received a phone call in 2005 from a development worker based at Barnabus, a homeless agency in Manchester city centre asking whether I would consider developing a football based activity for homeless men, I have continually been astounded by the very gifted and selfless people that have agreed to support the development of our work. From 2005 to 2009, a number of volunteers provided by local community groups, churches and agencies supported the ‘Street Soccer’ project based out of Manchester City Mission, operating on a relatively small and local scale. The desire in these volunteers to help support and love those less fortunate people was astounding.
In 2010, Simon Murphy and I co-founded Street Soccer Academy. This was the most significant development yet as an incredibly gifted man agreed to stand with me and form a charity that was capable of reaching a multitude of vulnerable and ‘at-risk’ people. Since then we have seen an increase in our reach and influence throughout Greater Manchester and into Lancashire. We have been privileged to add to our staff and volunteer base with some of the most capable and committed people who are prepared to go over and above the call of duty and offer real hope and dignity to the ‘hard to reach’.
Lives have been impacted and changed since 2005 through the Street Soccer model. As much as an increased number of people from a variety of demographics now benefit from the service provided since the inception of the company, the pre-requisites looked for in staff and volunteers have remained constant. The spirit demonstrated at Soccer 24 by those participating for 24 long hours epitomizes the heart of Street Soccer Academy – a deep desire to see broken lives rebuilt, the destitute enriched, and those in despair provided with hope. This is achieved by a growing group of people who are prepared to do ‘whatever it takes’.