“I actually thought it was only a summer-camp type thing, so when I stopped coming after summer, my friends were questioning me, so I got back at my earlier convenience and haven’t looked back since.”
Lennon is a player in Glasgow with Street Soccer, first engaging in 2021 after lockdown restrictions were initially lifted. Having only been 18 at the time, Lennon was one of the younger players at sessions at the Powerleague in Townhead – and he still is – but he highlights that it’s been an integral period for him to learn both on and off the pitch.
“The key thing for me has been developing relationships with everyone here. I was anxious when I first started coming here and now I would say they’re all my friends. I know everyone now and it’s good to feel included and feel part of a family.
I was 18 when I first came down and I’m 20 now, so these have been important years for me to develop as a person and I’ve been able to do that alongside football. I’ve been able to rely on Ross, Michael and Jack to learn a lot more about discipline and being able to put others first.”
Mad on football, much like many of his team-mates at sessions, Lennon attributes engaging with Street Soccer to some of the positive changes he’s seen in his life.
“I come every day, Monday to Friday and that’s great for me to have a solid structure and build a bit of routine. Football has always been a big part of my life, through family and friends, and I think to have the opportunity to do that with people I count as my friends, almost every day, is a massive lift.”
Looking back on his love for the game, Lennon opens up on his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy as a child and emphasises that the disability hasn’t held him back in enjoying the beautiful game.
“I was diagnosed a young age but I’ve not let that stop me enjoying football. I’ve got more power in my left leg, so I’ve sort of had to adapt to using that as a preference. It was a challenge at first but it’s something I’ve gotten used to as I’ve got older.
I used to have a lot of pain when I was younger and that’s not so much the case now, but I always make sure that I’m warm and prepared before we play football. The coaches are a big help with that stuff too.”
Players who participate in Street Soccer programmes are often afforded opportunities over and above our weekly sessions and Lennon was part of a life-changing experience in September after being selected for the Team Scotland squad to participate in the Street Soccer Nations Cup in Dundee.
Once again the youngest member of the team, Lennon took the weekend in his stride and reflects on it as some of the best day’s in his life.
“Being part of Team Scotland at the Nations Cup was incredible. I was part of the trials here in Glasgow and met all my team-mates in the run-up to preparing for the tournament. It was important to get to know the other guys that I hadn’t before.
The weekend was one of the best day’s I’ve had in my life. The event itself exceeded my expectations, I didn’t think I’d come away feeling as good as I did.”
So, what made it so special?
“We had a good team and it was good for that to be reflected by winning the shield, but I think the main memories are probably off the pitch. Meeting new people from Ukraine, Sweden, Netherlands and England etc, it was a positive experience. The Change Centre made it easier to chat to new people, it’s just such a relaxed environment.
Even Ross, who’s been here since the very start of Street Soccer, said it was the best weekend he’s ever had. The team-spirit was just mental. We loved it.”
Lennon continues to credit a lot of his development to the staff team in Glasgow and that says a lot about the relationships that both the players and staffs are building through the power of football. Lennon holds the memories of that weekend, in high regard.
“I still stay in touch with a lot of the players we met over the weekend. The coaches here; Ross, Michael, Jack and Morag, as well as my team-mates, they are like family to me . They’ve just been brilliant.”
It’s important to reflect on your achievements and Street Soccer players have the platform to do so, with one-to-one support available across the week, with our coaches. Lennon outlines some of his progress over the last couple years and highlights a desire to do more.
“My journey with Street Soccer has been really positive. I’ve done quite a lot in just a few years. I’ve been in to the prisons to deliver our programmes with Rab, I’ve been on quite a few trips too. I think just having a group of people who you can trust and want the best for you, allows you to properly express yourself and makes it easier to learn new things.
Over the past year or so, I’ve become a lot more confident, I’ve become clearer in my communication and that’s helped a lot with me building relationships with others. I want to stay engaged with Street Soccer as long as possible. I’m always keen to try new stuff and the staff here are always on hand to encourage you to keep developing and keep growing.”
Anyone can join our free football sessions, that take place weekly across Scotland. If you want to find out more about our programmes in Glasgow, then please get in touch with Ross Alexander on [email protected]. Sessions take place Monday to Friday, 1-3pm and require no previous experience.