Having been a Street Soccer player for 18 months, Glasgow regular Graham is keen to use his experience to help others.
Graham was introduced to Street Soccer sessions through Phoenix Futures, whilst in recovery, and has highlighted that setting goals for himself has helped his positive change journey so far.
“Football is my life and being able to combine that with helping others is just amazing. Street Soccer have used that to change so many lives, mines included, and I want to take that next step to use my experience to help others.
I keep setting myself wee goals to make sure that I am always progressing and I’m really keen to start supporting others. That’s my next step.”
Graham highlights the changes he’s overseen in the last few years, with his recovery journey leading him to visiting Street Soccer almost every day of the week.
“I first heard about Street Soccer when I was in recovery with Phoenix Futures. We visited the session here every Friday and we really enjoyed taking part. Before I got my house, I was at a place called Re-entry, during that time I found my routine was really benefitting me and by the time I got my house, I was here five days a week. It’s amazing. I’m absolutely delighted that this has came in to my life, that’s me almost a year and a half completely free, so it gives me great confidence.
I lost my brother to an overdose ten years ago, I call him my higher power. He died at 32 year old, a day before my birthday on the 1st of April 2012 through Methadone toxicity. He keeps me strong, I don’t want to go down that hill again.”
Graham, or more fondly known as ‘The Cat’ by regulars for his heroics inside the posts, has noted that the support from Street Soccer staff made his transition seamless and highlights that the additional activities outside of the pitch have made a strong impact on his mental health.
“Ross, Jamie and the rest of the team are brilliant, they can sit and have a chat about stuff like this, recovery and more personal stuff, which is good to get out in the open from time to time. I love this place.
We can benefit here from loads of stuff here. Mental health awareness groups, wee trips away and just setting yourself goals with all the events that Street Soccer can offer. I’d love to be part of the Homeless World Cup stuff as it looks really inspiring. It’s definitely something I’ve thought about.”
Graham’s passion for football is clear to see and he explains that using the beautiful game to break down social barriers has been a key part to his personal development.
“To start with, I was desperate to get involved more as I wanted my fitness back. I felt like the more I could play, the more I could hold on to my memories with my brother when I was younger. He made me a good keeper by playing with me all the time in the garden – all the lads here call me the cat. I’m 39 year old but I feel young when I’m here, it’s great.
The social aspect is great for me. I have suffered from social anxiety and this place has built me up and helped me overcome that. Unfortunately, I was bullied when I was younger, which damaged my confidence, but I’ve got that strength now. I feel comfortable and I can chat away to anyone now. See if I tried to chat about this, 18 months ago, I would be struggling to get my words out.”
By explaining how much he has achieved in such a short amount of time, Graham is clearly inspired to do more and touches on his plans to do some more voluntary work with Street Soccer.
“To come here and have a laugh everyday is an amazing opportunity. I want to now help more people through my own experience. I want to try and help people in addiction, that’s now my inspiration. To look at everyone here who has helped me, and use that to fuel my passion to help others. I’ve spoke to the guys about some volunteering work and I think it would be great to take on more responsibility. I want to build a social network, I’m really happy to have the opportunity to do a bit more – this just helps build more confidence.
I’m also epileptic, which means that I’ve got another unique experience which I can lean on to help others. It can be hard and I have suffered, but I won’t be the last one. So I want to use all these things to improve other people’s lives, just like people have improved mine.”
It’s widely accepted that you need to be brave to be a goalkeeper, however Graham’s story is far braver than anything he could do on the pitch. He is one of many players benefitting from free football sessions in the centre of Glasgow, to find out how you can get involved, click here.