Homeless World Cup: Padraig McKissock has new goal after tournament success

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image copyrightPacemaker
image captionPadraig McKissock scored more than 30 goals as Northern Ireland claimed a trophy at the Homeless World Cup in Chile last month

He has not slept in a bed for a year, but Belfast teenager Padraig McKissock is now dreaming of football stardom after shooting Northern Ireland to success at the Homeless World Cup tournament in Chile.

Padraig, 18, bagged more than 30 goals as Northern Ireland's street league players claimed the Accion Total Cup last month.

This included five goals in the final in Santiago, as the international team defeated Denmark 10-6.

Now Padraig is hoping to carve out a professional career, with Irish League clubs Crusaders, Glentoran and Warrenpoint Town already showing an interest in his goal-scoring prowess.

"The tournament in Chile was brilliant, I scored some goals, I played well, it was the best experience I will ever have," he said.

"I have already been training with Warrenpoint Town and I am going to train with Crusaders on Thursday night, Glentoran have also shown an interest.

"It would be great to play professionally.

image copyrightPACEMAKER
image captionNI Street League is a project of the Irish Football Association and East Belfast Mission

"Football has changed my life, it has made me more confident, it is a brilliant thing."

Reception

The Northern Ireland team was given a special reception at Belfast City Hall on Wednesday and it offered Padraig time to reflect on how his life had turned around.

"About a year and a half ago, my mates asked me to get involved with the Springwell team in the Belfast Street league, who are from the Springfield Road. That has led on to playing for the Northern Ireland team," he added.

"I train every day and in the build-up to the Homeless World Cup I was training with the Northern Ireland team every week on Monday and Wednesdays so I could cope with the heat in Santiago.

"It seemed to work as I scored more than 30 goals in the tournament.

"I have been living with my sister and her daughter, I have been sleeping on a sofa, I haven't slept in a bed for two years."

The eight-man Northern Ireland squad travelled to Chile earlier in the month, following almost nine months of trials, training and preparation.

During this time, a number of players overcame different problems such as drug addiction, homelessness and alcoholism, in order to make the life-changing trip.

Brendan Kingsmore, captain of Northern Ireland's street league team, said the squad played 12 games in Chile - winning 10 of them.

"This trip has changed my life. I have seen so many cultures, met so many new people, and have a new view on things," he said.

"I am so grateful for this opportunity, it has been amazing. Thank you to all those back home who have shown us so much support.

"It's something different. The lifestyle over there is nothing like we have over here. We're quite privileged over here. I've been homeless over here. It's different to what it would be like to be homeless over there."

Michael Boyd, Director of Football Development with the Irish Football Association (IFA), and coach mentor for the squad, said: "Team NI are winners on and off the pitch.

"We have made new friends and shared experiences that money cannot buy."

Qualifications

NI Street League is a project of the Irish Football Association and East Belfast Mission.

There are currently two five-a-side street leagues in Northern Ireland; the original league in Belfast which has been running for about three years, and one in Londonderry which started in Autumn 2012.

The leagues involve weekly football featuring up to 60 players. With support from the Comic Relief Sport for Change programme, the IFA have secured funding to run a 'Beyond Football' programme alongside Street League.

This programme will help to develop the players in the league with coaching qualifications, referee qualifications, mental and physical health awareness and employability skills.

In September 2012, 12 young men embarked on a coach education course which will give them an IFA accredited coaching qualification and also develop the skills required to be a good coach and mentor.

Last year, NI Street League brought the first Northern Ireland team to the Homeless World Cup annual event and hope to return with a men and women's team, to the tournament in Amsterdam in 2015.

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