Northampton

Football for homeless in Northampton can provide 'self worth'

Northampton's new homeless football team training at Goals Image copyright Project 16:15
Image caption Members of the Army's Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers joined one training session at the Goals centre in Northampton

A new football team for rough sleepers will help give them "self-esteem" and "something to wake up for", said the project's founder.

The side is the idea of street pastor Stan Robertson who runs a project delivering food to homeless people in Northampton.

The team hopes to play its first games in a tournament at Northampton Saints RUFC's stadium at the end of the month.

Mr Robertson said the aim was to make people feel better about themselves.

Football for homeless people is becoming increasingly prominent, with the World Cup coming to Cardiff in July.

The Northampton team, called Project 16:15 Homeless FC after the charity of the same name, has been training for the tournament at Franklin's Gardens on Bank Holiday Monday, 27 May.

Image caption An official borough council count found 26 people sleeping rough in Northampton in 2018, but Project 16:15 estimates that figure could be as high as 70 now

Mr Robertson said the routine could give homeless people "something to wake up for in the morning".

"We know physical activity can help build you up and make you feel better about yourself," he said.

"For self-esteem, for value and for self-worth, it's an amazing benefit."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Money raised from pre-sold tickets for the tournament at Franklin's Gardens will go to mental health charities

The side's coach Lee Cowley said Mr Robertson recruited him after they met while he was talking to homeless people in the town centre.

"I mentioned I run an under-16 team and Stan said 'well, you're coach then'," he said.

"It's getting confidence back in them that they can be part of something."

'Stereotyping'

Goalkeeper Carlton said he had been sleeping rough for about eight months.

He said the new team has "some good players", adding that he had played at a "high level" when he was a child.

He said he "played against the best European teams" at the age of 14 and "at Highbury against Arsenal Boys - and we beat them".

Mr Robertson said not all rough sleepers were "addicts".

"People have hit hard times," he said. "We try and break down that stereotyping and see the humanity in people."

Northampton Saints's head of community, Connor Fleming, said the club was "delighted" to support the event and the club worked to create "opportunities for people in need of a helping hand".

"I'm sure this game will be a great success in raising awareness for Project 16:15 and giving people an opportunity to get active."

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