By Steve Burnside, S.T.F.C. Facilities and Events Manager.
Off The Streets F.C. was launched in March 2020 to offer those living in temporary accommodation or on the streets, a chance to participate in regular exercise through an hour of football a week.
Now we can’t promise that we’re the most skilful players on the planet, neither can we promise that we won’t spend large parts of the session chasing after stray footballs, but we are a committed bunch, who will happily laugh at our own footballing shortcomings, whilst occasionally dazzling with a rare moment of brilliance!
Since we formed last year and despite lockdown restrications, a real sense of camaraderie has developed within the team and an edge of competitiveness has begun to creep in.
Supported by The Ark, players are offered transport to and from the sessions and are joined by their volunteers and support workers, who wholeheartedly throw themselves into the activity (and tackles!).
It’s important for participants to see a familiar face and be reassured that there is support on hand should any assistance be needed during the session. In short, this scheme would not be possible without the support and backing of The Ark and their fantastic team.
Prior to lockdown number 3, we played our first fixture, competing against an established group of regular footballers from one of STITC’s other projects. After falling to a 4-0 deficit prior to half time, the team rallied in the second half narrowly losing the game 5-4. A great effort for our first ever competitive fixture.
Looking to the future, Off The Streets F.C. will have a brand new home pitch (currently under construction) and as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we hope to organise further fixtures against similar schemes, with other professional football clubs. There are even plans to host a session on Shrewsbury Town FC’s first team pitch!
We are also looking to build on the new found confidence and committment of team members, by offering employability skills development, post football training, to those who are interested.
If you know anyone who might benefit from joining us please encourage them to get in contact via the Ark. We are always happy to welcome new players from the homeless community of all abilities, it’s not about winning games, it’s about getting regular exercise, boosting confidence and being part of a team.