Homeless World Cup helps give players fresh hope

Craig McManus (left) celebrates as Scotland win their opening game
Craig McManus (left) helped Scotland win their opening game

For Craig McManus, the Homeless World Cup is not only a sporting event but a lifeline, even a life saver.

The four-a-side event kicked off in Glasgow's George Square on Sunday, with 64 men's and women's teams from 52 countries taking part.

McManus was part of the Scotland team that started with a win over Hong Kong.

"I think it has given me hope and that hope has allowed me to change," said the 40-year-old from Glasgow who has been homeless since September.

"And, on the back of that, opportunities are coming my way, so my future is looking pretty bright."

It was not so long ago that McManus was on the edge of despair.

"I have been struggling with addiction to drugs for a number of years and I crashed and burned last year," McManus told BBC Scotland.

Glasgow's George Square hosts the Homeless World Cup matches
Glasgow's George Square is hosting the Homeless World Cup matches

"After the death of my father, things just spiralled out of control for me and I ended up losing my flat - my flat was repossessed - and I ended up losing my job.

"All the materialistic stuff went and I went on a journey of destruction for near enough two years and I lost everything.

"But, more importantly, rather than the materialistic stuff, it was the self-respect stuff I lost."

That began to change when McManus became involved with Street Soccer Scotland, which provides a range of a range of football-themed training and personal development opportunities for socially disadvantaged groups across Scotland.

"I had total self-loathing of who I became and I got engaged with street soccer and I started to feel a bit better about who I was," he said.

"I worked hard physically and I knew the trials were coming up and it just gave me a goal.

"I was in a treatment centre and I came out in February and just ever since I've worked really hard to get in the team and, fortunately enough, I've managed to make it.

"I'd lost that respect for myself, so it gave me a bit of self-respect back.

"Obviously, physically it has helped give me something to focus on and allowed me a bit of structure in my life as I knew I had to go to training, I had to eat properly, I had to look after myself.

"I am abstinent from any substance, but I needed something else to help me through that and I think through my addiction it was really isolation I experienced and loneliness."

Scotland's women celebrate
Scotland's women also won their opening match

McManus has been further enthused by the reception at George Square for a week-long event Scotland have won twice previously.

"It is electric," he said. "It's nice looking round and seeing your family in the crowd being proud of you for a change after the experiences most of us have had.

"It was lovely, but the rain maybe suited us and put Hong Kong off a bit and it was nice to be involved in something so special."

McManus' story is typical of those playing in Glasgow, according to Scotland team manager Ally Dawson.

"Some of their stories are basically at an early age things have happened to them with their parents, with their own life, adversity, they've turned to alcohol, drugs, etc, and had not a very good life," he said.

"They are now at a stage where they want to change that and we hopefully are at a stage where we can do something about it."