It’s been twelve years since that day in Paris and for former Team Scotland player James Horsburgh, the feeling of immense pride has never changed.
Scotland were World Champions in the summer of 2011 as the Homeless World Cup was played out in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. James was goalkeeper that day and across the tournament and highlights that the experience changed his life completely.
Now at 34 years old, James reflects on his journey as a Street Soccer player and the opportunities that lead up to his selection for Team Scotland.
“When I first found Street Soccer, I was staying in an area in Leith, that at the time was due to get demolished. I had a friend John who was going to sessions at Portobello and he invited me down and as a big football fan, I didn’t think twice. From then it kind of snowballed and I was just getting involved as much as I could.”
James describes football as an escapism and believes that the introduction of Street Soccer came at the right time in his life, when other distractions might have taken him down a different path.
“I met so many people and was really supported by the coaches, the likes of Andy, Ally and Davie. I started developing a lot of strong relationships and being from quite a rough area growing up, I knew that football had the ability to keep me focused and take me away from any trouble. I was 19, when I first engaged and I had already been in prison a few times and that time of my life was a bit of a fork in the road and fortunately Street Soccer took me in the right direction.”
With weekly sessions now a large part of his routine, James believes he was able to get rid of some of his bad habits and focus on the future, with an important opportunity ahead.
“Once you cross the white line, your problems are forgotten. That was true for me. I was starting a really positive routine. I was part of a really good group and we all had some really positive opportunities at that time to represent Street Soccer at various tournaments.
That sort of thing was always in the back of my mind and whilst I was volunteering, I knew the Homeless World Cup was round the corner. We heard it was in Paris and with being not too bad between the sticks, I made the cut and the rest is history.”
James was one of the historic squad that lifted the coveted Homeless World Cip trophy for the second time. He believes that the experience afforded to him helped create greater perspective on his choices and consequently lead to a brighter future for him and his family.
“It was such a unique experience, totally amazing. To share that experience with my peers was really special and I don’t think I could have imagined how it turned out.
When I was a teenager, I was angry, I was silly. I got in to trouble. And if Street Soccer wasn’t there at that time then I don’t know what would have happened, to be honest. Things would have been a lot different.
I have been to Paris. I have been to Brazil. I have had recognition at these tournaments and I truly believe that’s set me up for the rest of my life. it changed me as it made me believe, if I want to do something, I can do it. I’m now happily married, I have a house, I have two beautiful children and a solid career. That fork in the road came at the right time and I’m delighted with the choices I’ve made since then.”
The 2011 Homeless World Cup took place in Paris ©Esme Deacon
James notes that after his summer with Team Scotland, he started to focus on forgetting the past and moving forward. He’s now comfortable in a job that has lead him back to Street Soccer, where he is able to reflect on some of the soft skills he learned as a player.
“Positive change through football, that phrase continued to stick with me. As you get older and have these experiences, you start to create your own path and Street Soccer was the foundation for that.
I am in the water hygiene industry as a water hygiene technician and travel around Scotland looking after a number of services, including the Change Centre! I wouldn’t have thought about a job like this a decade ago and now I can look at things from a different perspective thanks to the support I got. I can think about how to support my kids and family, just like Street Soccer looked out for me. I’ve been down the bad path and now I know the tools to turn things in to a positive. I’m always keen to pass this on to others too. Communication is key and we learn those foundations on the pitch.”
With the Homeless World Cup making a return after a four year absence, the significance of Team Scotland’s win in Paris resonates more than ever with James and his former team-mates.
“I look back on all my experiences with extreme pride. Not many people can say they’ve represented their country and having that opportunity to express yourself and trying to be that best version of yourself, it was unreal. The whole experience from trials, training, all the way through to lifting the trophy, wow. You recognise the significance of it all now you look back.
There can’t be many people around with Scotland caps that say ‘World Champion’ on them either. We had a really good group of guys and sharing those memories with others is really special.”
The next Team Scotland squad is due to be announced in the coming weeks and with former champions around, it doesn’t harm getting a word of advice or two. James believes that the men’s team should focus on the importance of the group as a whole and being able to take the opportunity to express themselves.
“Football has always been a great way to connect with others and although its great to win things, you realise now that coming together as a team is always the main part. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how the next group of lads get on, I’ll always feel that connection to Street Soccer.”
You can read more about Team Scotland and how to support their journey to Sacramento, by clicking here.