Ballymena scores Street Soccer scheme

Street Soccer Ballymena launched at the Showgrounds on Thursday. (Submitted Picture).
Street Soccer Ballymena launched at the Showgrounds on Thursday. (Submitted Picture).

A charity which uses football as a means of engaging with people who are homeless or marginalised is launching its first project in Ballymena.

Football charity Street Soccer NI hopes it might also find a player or two in the area to take to this year’s ‘Homeless World Cup’ in Norway!

Street Soccer NI, in partnership with East Belfast Mission, the Housing Executive and IFA, run projects across N.I. using the power of football to transform the lives of people who are homeless and other disadvantaged groups. Alongside the football they offer support in housing, employability, and other issues that affect their players.

The charity is offering its services in Ballymena for the first time with a pilot project and it will be run in conjunction with the Lighthouse Hostel in Ballymena.

Speaking about the Ballymena project, Aidan Byrne, co-founder of Street Soccer NI and manager of East Belfast Mission’s

Homeless Service, said: ‘Street Soccer NI is delighted to bring this new project to Ballymena and we hope that players in Ballymena will enjoy the same benefits and change to their lives that we have seen first hand at our projects in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.

“Our aim is to work with local partners across Northern Ireland to make sure we set up projects wherever there is a need and in so doing give people a chance to transform their lives,” said Aidan who pointed out that the Ballymena project, which got underway on Thursday, February 2, is set to run every Thursday from 2-4pm.

He added: “It is free of charge to join and we provide kit and footwear to make it as accessible as possible for people.”  

Michael Boyd Director of Football Development IFA and Chairman of Street Soccer NI, said: “Street Soccer NI is about using the power of football to help people who are excluded to improve and transform their lives. Homelessness is a serious issue in Northern Ireland and we are committed to playing our part to tackle it,” said Michael.

Street Soccer NI will be holding trials for the Homeless World Cup in June and is hoping that someone from Ballymena makes the eight man squad heading to Oslo in August for the week long tournament.

Mark Forsythe, manager of the Lighthouse Hostel which is running the project in conjunction with Street Soccer NI said; “The Lighthouse Hostel is proud to continue providing support to the most vulnerable in our community through the Street Football Initiative. Clients in the Ballymena area are very excited at the prospect of playing other teams from Belfast and the possibility of representing their country as part of the NI Homeless World Cup Team.”

To find out more visit www.streetsoccerni.org