Fir Park for thrills – Street Soccer session thriving in North Lanarkshire

Street Soccer’s newest session in Motherwell is in its second month and players in the local community are already feeling the positive impact, with numbers steadily growing every Monday at Fir Park.

As part of our network programme, Street Soccer arrived in Lanarkshire in January, working in partnership with North Lanarkshire Recovery Community and Motherwell FC Community Trust. The free football session takes place on Fir Park Astro, in the shadow of the football club’s John Hunter Stand. Working together with representatives from each organisation, Street Soccer’s Stuart Lovell is delighted with the arrival of the programme, adding to existing network sessions in Livingston and Stirling.

“There was always real appetite to get this session up and running and the players have taken to it really well. We want to create an inclusive and supportive community here, where we can share best practices but ultimately, give the players a bit of hope and positivity.”

That sentiment is echoed by North Lanarkshire Recovery Community’s Dave Gallagher, who is excited by the prospect of growing the session in 2022.

“Its been superb, so far,” he said, “It’s been a long time coming too, we’ve been trying for a while now to get this session up and running. Motherwell FC have been brilliant with us, as we had a few obstacles in finding a pitch, so we are grateful to them for that.

The group have been amazing. We have guys coming from all different walks of life. We are, of course, a recovery community but we have guys coming from Phoenix Futures, a young guy with cerebral palsy has been brilliant, we also have guys from Cornerstone, some from Simon community and we are actively trying to open it up to other groups, so it is not just seen as a recovery session but a session for all. Particularly focusing on improving mental health.”

Dave Gallagher, North Lanarkshire Recovery Community

With sessions taking place every Monday, players can benefit from a weekly structure and routine, which can be particularly important for those in recovery. Street Soccer player, John, highlights that the sessions are having a positive impact on his mental health.

“Having the structure of the weekly session makes a world of difference. With a lot of us in recovery, being alone in the house can be troublesome. So, the more you are out doing things and connecting with people, that’s invaluable.”

John was originally part of our Stirling session, travelling through with Dave to support the Forth Valley Recovery Community in a volunteering role.

“I was volunteering at the North Lanarkshire Recovery cafes and heard about the chance to go through to Stirling for the Street Soccer sessions and I loved it. I had never really played football before, so I didn’t know what to expect but I really enjoyed it.

I actually broke my ankle a while back and once that happened, I was desperate to get back. I feel the connection with the other guys, here in Motherwell. You get to know people quite quick through football, and they are a good group of lads. I want to get fitter and I know this is good for both my physical and mental health. It’s a real laugh too.”

Both Dave and Stuart acknowledge the significance of having a diverse mix of players at these sessions, with Motherwell FC also offering the opportunity to use the Davie Cooper Lounge as a base for chats after the sessions.

“It’s really important that we have a mix. In a recovery community, we want recovery to be very visible and by bringing people together from different backgrounds that helps break down those barriers and stigmas. So, with players here from homeless charities, disability charities and so on, it helps create a strong community under one banner,” says Dave.

“It’s important for us that we are able to empower the players to take more responsibility,” adds Stuart. “Using the experience of Street Soccer, we can build up our partners and then-so the players to put the session in a place where the delivery becomes second nature.”

Sessions take place on Motherwell FC’s community astroturf, outside Fir Park.

Dave can sense the benefits that this can have for the players. “I like the whole ethos of Street Soccer, that we are able to work together to teach some of these guys discipline, teamwork and other important social skills.”

Although the session is still in its infancy, both parties are ambitious for what it could become. With resources available to share across a number of partner charities and organisations, the shared goal is to support the players wherever and whenever possible.

“I am keen for the session to keep growing,” Dave adds. “I’d really like to see some of the other recovery community partners to get involved as we can see the impact it can have. Some of these players may have no addiction issues, but they may have friends and family members that do. They can come and talk to us. We have trained drug and alcohol counsellors.

We also have people coming along from Chris’ House, which is a suicide prevention charity, and they have resources that players can use too. I think bringing together all of the partnerships can have a great impact in the wider Lanarkshire community.”

Street Soccer are to add to its repertoire in Lanarkshire, with a new location in Hamilton in the coming months. All sessions are totally inclusive and free of cost, so if you’d like to join a session near you, you can find a list of our main drop ins here.

Street Soccer Lanarkshire sessions are on Fir Park Astro, Motherwell every Monday from 1:30-3:00.

You can contact Stuart on [email protected] or 07534297447 for more information.

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