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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 24 October, 2019

'Amazing footballers see their talent as a distant memory - overpowered by isolation, addiction, homelessness'

The individual gets to meet that side of themselves again; the side of themselves that was confident, strong, talented and part of something, writes Senator Lynn Ruane about homelessness leagues.

Lynn Ruane Independent Senator

DO YOU EVER look back at your life and wish you hadn’t given up a certain hobby or sport?

I do all the time – with football. Whether it was putting on the jersey of the team I played for or playing World Cup in the field with two jumpers to mark where the goal was, I was always in my element with a ball at my feet.

I loved the energy that erupted in people and the screams from the sideline. It felt like everyone was involved and even as we battled against each other to win the game we were all in the match together.

My Dad was a referee and also played stints with Sligo Rovers, Bray Wanderers and St Pats – so football was a central feature in my upbringing. This is just one reason why I support The Irish Homeless Street Leagues (IHSL). 

Irish Homeless Street Leagues use the power of football to help rebuild and transform the lives of men and women who have encountered difficulties such as homelessness, addiction and social isolation.

The ISHL leagues are open to the indigenous and migrant population and over 250 people a year participate in the leagues on a regular basis. It’s not just about the game, it’s about the memory of who are they are and potential they have.

I have seen so many amazing football players, both male and female, see their talented touch of the ball become a distant memory as they were over-powered by social isolation and addiction and in some cases homelessness.

I played side by side with them with teams such as Lourdes Celtic. Three times a week I made my way to Sundrive Park to play alongside some of the best female players in the country. Many went on to play with Ireland and some went further afield and built entire careers in the football world.

Homeless World Cup

When I arrived last year to watch the tryouts for the Women’s Homeless World Cup, I recognised some familiar faces from the late 1990s in Sundrive and I was reminded of their talent for the game.

So to hear that IHSL couldn’t raise the funding to take the women to play in this year’s World Cup was disappointing. We need to change that. As I write this I am getting constant updates from the men’s team who at the very least have qualified for the quarter finals of the Bowl competition.

Through their participation in IHSL, many people have returned to education or employment, reconnected with family and friends or overcome addiction. 

They willingly credit the social aspect of the leagues as hugely important in giving them the confidence to fulfil their true potential.

Every year since 2003, the IHSL has run numerous street leagues around Ireland and has brought a team to the Homeless World Cup, a yearly event that showcases an often-misunderstood section of our community in a positive, proactive light. I think it’s time we bring the Homeless World Cup here to Ireland and I will be fully supporting their bid to do so.

The IHSL uses the power of sport to transform the lives of individuals who have encountered difficulties and fallen on hard times. They help players integrate back into society by building their self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline and developing communication skills. 

The street leagues are about rebuilding lives using participation in a team sport as a catalyst for change.

At a time when we have the highest number of people experiencing homelessness in our history and large numbers of families shamefully living in Direct Provision, we should be fully supporting initiatives such the ISHL and championing their efforts to host the Homeless World Cup here in Ireland.
With the right support the Irish Street Leagues can expand and make a huge contribution to addressing the impact that homelessness, addiction, prison and unemployment has had on people’s lives.

Best of all the individual gets to meet that side of themselves again; the side of themselves that was confident, strong, talented and part of something. 

Lynn Ruane is a 

Lynn Ruane is an independent Senator. 

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About the author:

Lynn Ruane  / Independent Senator

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