Using football for change | Colleen’s story

Colleen first visited a Street Soccer session five years ago. After experiencing a turbulent lifestyle during her school years, she has turned her life around using football as the foundation for change.

“A circle addiction. That’s the best way I can describe it. Everyone l knew was either an addict or a child of one. I struggled with my relationship with drugs but I knew I was made for better things. By finding support, I got the push I needed.”

Since reaching out for help, Colleen highlights that her mental health journey has allowed her to achieve things she would have never imagined. After becoming a regular player at Street Soccer sessions, she was quickly given the opportunity to represent Team Scotland at the Homeless World Cup. This experience has allowed us to develop further, with coaching roles at Street45 sessions and the Street Soccer Nations Cup arriving in the past year.

“If I was told about where I am now, when I first started, I would have laughed it off. I was very shy, didn’t speak to anybody and rarely gave eye contact. Whereas now, I can approach players, be confident in what I am going to say and how it may help. There’s been a massive change in myself.”

Colleen illustrates how much of an honour it is to be delivering Street45 sessions in Glasgow, after coming through the pathway as a player herself.

“To be offered the opportunity and to be given extra responsibilities, really helps build my self-belief and confidence. To be able to connect more with the players is really important too, I was once that person and to now be in a position to help others is massive for me. I’ve now got a real sense of purpose.”

Street Soccer’s women’s only programme is built on empowering participants with choice and having the flexibility to develop at their own pace. Colleen notes that the magic happening both on and off the pitch has created a real sense of community at weekly sessions.

“The interaction among the players is a really special part of the programme. Some days, we simply sit and have a chat about what’s going on and how they’re feeling. We don’t always have to head out to the pitch to play and I think we try and make that over-the-top support clear to the girls, that its always available.”

Working closely with players in Glasgow, Colleen underlines that the diversity among the players has been key to the personal development of many of the women. Ukrainian refugees joined sessions in the summer and this consequently led to Colleen leading Team Ukraine at the Street Soccer Nations Cup in Dundee, this past September.

“To have the opportunity to lead Team Ukraine at the Nations Cup was a great experience. Everyone got on together, so quickly. As soon as I seen the smiles on their faces in Dundee, it felt like job done to me. I was really thankful for the opportunity and also for the support I received from all our players, staff and volunteers whilst there as it was a massive learning curve for me.

The girls are amazing and their English is improving. I think our common language through football, as well as sharing an understanding of being caring and compassionate has made things so simple. For them to leave with a smile on their face means a lot. Just to give them something to enjoy, with everything going on, is amazing. I have seen them grow and progress so much.

The other girls stepping up and becoming role models has been fantastic to witness. With some girls, you may need to work through cliques but the girls we have here in Glasgow have been really supportive with all our new players, including the Ukrainians. Everyone becomes one.”

After a ‘surreal’ experience in Dundee, Colleen is keen to grasp more opportunities with Street Soccer. After experiencing international tournaments as both a player and a coach, she credits her engagement with Street Soccer as a key turning point in her life.

“There were moments in that weekend at the Nations Cup that will live with me forever. The opportunities I have had as being part of the Street Soccer family has been second to none. It gives you the confidence and self-belief to keep progressing in life. It has been genuinely life-changing for me, in all aspects. It wasn’t for Street Soccer, I don’t think I’d be where I am now.”

Colleen is part of Street45 programmes at Powerleague Glasgow, which take place every week. Drop-in sessions are free to join, with our women’s only programme available in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, as well as Glasgow.

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