When Street Soccer’s Network programme rolled in to Glenrothes in the summer of 2022, players from around Fife were curious as to how the weekly sessions would work to their benefit. Alan and Aria are an unlikely duo who have been side by side since the session kicked off and both have underlined how the programme has helped create positive change in their lives.
Alan, who is 43, previously worked for YMCA in a support role and came across a Street Soccer poster for its new session in his local area. He discusses how he grasped the opportunity as soon as he learned a bit more about the programme.
“I’ve not played football in a long time. In the past, even in the 80’s, we never really had chances like this to get free football and an opportunity to socialise. It’s great” said Alan.
“I have suffered with depression and anxiety, where at times I couldn’t leave the house. Coming here to the session has helped immensely and you meet new people who you can trust. It’s like a family.”
Alan and Aria became friends during their time together at YMCA Glenrothes, a charity organisation which supports individuals across the region with homeless accommodation and a range of engagement activities. The pair believe that the welcoming environment at Street Soccer sessions has helped with confidence, structure and routine.
“I was in a homeless unit and my staff worker approached me to ask if I fancied joining in” said Aria, “I played football at school and I always thought I’d like to get started again. This has been a brilliant chance to revive my interest. I don’t know this area too well, so I was quite nervous to start with but I’ve progressed each week.
I’ve made a lot of positive changes since starting Street Soccer sessions. I’ve gained a lot of confidence and that’s helped a lot.”
Alan reiterates the progression shown in Aria, underlining how far she’s come since first engaging.
“The players here are so friendly and the welcome you get is second to none. They make you feel confident and comfortable. We’re a tight unit and this grows every week. Even when new players come along, they settle in quite quickly.”
Aria highlights that her friendship with Alan helped with her social anxiety as she initially swithered on whether to take a chance on weekly football sessions.
“Alan and I knew each other from the YMCA, so we were pretty good friends and that’s developed since joining the session. When you know you have someone you can trust, it makes you feel safe and makes things a lot more comfortable.”
“Because of my anxiety, I found it difficult to engage to begin with but the players here have helped ease that and I’ve not looked back. We all work together and cheer each other on. It’s a really nice environment.”
As weekly sessions at the Michael Woods Sport & Leisure Centre continue to progress, Alan is keen for more players in the local area to witness the power of football, as he illustrates how its changed his life.
“My lived experience as well as my previous experience of working with individuals who have been homeless, have adverse mental health or learning disabilities, all of that made coming here a lot easier, with a fresh perspective. I’m hungry to keep progressing, helping more people and I think here is a great place to develop that.”
“I really look forward to coming here every Wednesday and meeting up with my friends. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. It’s beginning to change my life for the better.”
The team-mates give a wry smile to one another as they acknowledge the personal progress that improves week-on-week. Aria notes that she was initially surprise at the range of support services in place at Street Soccer as she explains how she wants to keep maintaining her positive lifestyle in and around the sessions.
“It’s good to know we have support mechanisms in place at Street Soccer. It’s the first sort of sports organisation, that I’ve heard of, that are looking out for you in that capacity.”
“Street Soccer is very diverse and everyone has their own story. There’s no judgement and I think that makes it a really easy place to come to. I would encourage anyone interested to take the jump and come along. It’s helped me with a lot of stuff so I’d like to see it help others.”
To find out more about our growing network programme, head online. Anyone can join our free football programmes and our weekly sessions in Glenrothes take place every Wednesday from 13:30 to 15:00 at Michael Woods Sport & Leisure Centre.