Team Scotland manager and Street Soccer coach Chris Binnie believes that the Four Nations tournament can have a lasting effect on his new squad.
Selected as gaffer earlier in August, Chris is excited for the event at the Mound, highlighting the legacy that these tournaments have with Street Soccer:
“Once I found out about the offer to manage the team, it was a very easy answer. I’ve been with Street Soccer a while now and knowing about Homeless World Cup and its history, and then looking back to when I was a younger, watching the tournament in Edinburgh then Glasgow, it is a really special event. It was a very easy yes, as I can see the positive impact it creates for the players, getting to represent their country in a sport that they love playing. To be able to manage Scotland in this event is a big honour.”
A popular figure across all of our Edinburgh sessions, Chris works predominantly with younger players, with multiple programmes in schools and with partners. A passion for playing between the sticks, Chris joined Street Soccer as a student, looking to gain volunteering opportunities and says he would never have envisaged all the amazing experiences he’s had up until now.
“Robbie had an advertisement board up years ago, when I was about 18. They were looking for volunteers and I went along. It was for goalkeeping drop in sessions and it all started from there. Since then, I’ve had amazing opportunities all over the world, in Tanzania and Budapest, as well as building up our drop in sessions all over the country.
I developed this in to more regular sessional work, particularly with our youth programmes in Edinburgh, and thankfully due to our Hanlon Stevenson partnership, there was funding to create a permanent full time role for me with Street Soccer. This has allowed me to go in to a number of schools, working with kids who are disengaged and using football as a connecting tool to bring them back in to the school environment, help them get SQA qualifications. In addition to this, there is a lot of work around communities in Edinburgh to offer free football to kids that don’t usually have that opportunity.”
Chris highlights that his work with the younger demographic is particularly important since restrictions have eased, with the pandemic forcing isolation among recent school leavers and others both physically and mentally.
“I think when you consider the last 18 months, with the pandemic, we feel a responsibility to talk about mental health and football is a massive help. If you’re are able to kick a ball around for 60-90 minutes, you’re able to switch off from the outside world and you also have something to look forward to. We are giving them a routine and purpose – using football as that format to work on their self-esteem, confidence and motivation.”
You can feel the family-like atmosphere at a number of the drop in sessions, including at our visit to Sighthill were players from different cultures and backgrounds chat away during the break in play.
“First of all, you want to create a safe and enjoyable environment for all these guys. We want them to show up and leave with a smile on their face, because really they’re all here for the same thing and that’s to have fun playing football.”
When assessing Team Scotland’s chances at the Four Nations, Chris insists that there is absolutely no expectation on the players and there is good reason for that. The squad have trained together at Change Centre Dundee and are looking forward to the event in Edinburgh.
“We’ve been up at Dundee with both the men’s and women’s team and they’re having great fun interacting with one another. We aren’t going to put any pressure on expectation on them, all that matters is that they’re getting to represent their country. After the last 18 months, this is something to give to them to enjoy and something that could have a positive impact in their lives. We want the players to enjoy the experience and sort of live in the moment to ensure they are getting everything they can from it. It’s a great platform to go and express themselves, have fun and play with and against players they usually wouldn’t interact with.”
The squad has representatives from across all of Street Soccer’s programmes in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen and Chris highlights that all the players, who vary in age and experience, are focused on making their team-mates proud.
“We have a real family feel for this event, we all want to do our best for Street Soccer and that is why working for this company is special. The guys are buzzing for it, they know what an honour it is and are looking forward to putting on that blue jersey.”
The Four Nations tournament takes place on the Mound Precint in Edinburgh over the 18th and 19th September. We look forward to seeing a number of familiar and new faces there. Please come and say hello if you have the chance.
Sessions in Edinburgh continue to grow in numbers, with players attending across various venues across the city. A new session at the World of Football in Muirhouse takes place every Friday from 12pm to 1:30pm offering free football to those 16 and over.
Absolutely anyone is free to come to any of our drop-in sessions, but if you have any questions please get in touch with Chris or Robbie, who will do their best to get back to you as soon as they can.
Chris Binnie – [email protected] – 07411486436
Robbie Wood – [email protected] – 07480979919