Street Football Wales (SFW) has recently gained funding from the Big Lottery Fund to create a new league in Newport/Cardiff and Swansea. The £172,520 award will enable the programme to create a Wales-wide street football network for homeless or socially excluded people for the next three years.
Mr Lewis, who is the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage said,
“Participating in sport has many positive knock on effects such as improving health and physical fitness, self esteem, promoting good citizenship and giving people a purpose in life.
“Unfortunately the spectre of homelessness is increasing, with more people at risk of losing their homes and finding it difficult in establishing a secure and stable home.
“The new football leagues that have been established in east and west Wales are proving very popular and I congratulate those involved for the amount of work that they have put in to get the leagues up and running. I am aware that there are also plans to set up a league in north Wales so there will an interest created around Wales."
SFW is a social inclusion project designed in partnership with Gofal a Chymorth Gwalia, aimed at engaging with those furthest away from mainstream sport provision.
In 2009 the Welsh Assembly provided £1,500 to support the Welsh Dragons Football Team (who are controlled by SFW) to enable them to compete in the Homeless World Cup in Milan. They won several games in the tournament and the team thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were thrilled to represent Wales.
Although unable to send an official team in 2011, Wales has now been invited to send a team to Mexico in October for this year’s competition. Thanks to funding from the Welsh Government, Sport Wales, Gwalia and other sporting partners, Wales is now able to send a team to the Homeless World Cup in Mexico in October, which will see them come up against teams from 56 nations around the world.
The Minister continued,
“I know the players that have been selected are here today and congratulations to you all - I am sure you will enjoy this fantastic opportunity and it will be an event which you will never forget.
“Over 50 teams from across the world will compete and it is pleasing to know that Wales will be one of them and that there is worldwide interest in supporting those who find themselves homeless.”
It has been proved that recreational and cultural activities can play a vital role in building the confidence of homeless people to address long term problems, and Street Football Wales also offers housing advice and support.
Street football can play a part in breaking the cycle of homelessness amongst vulnerable people. SFW monitors the progress of participants in relation to homelessness and other needs such as mental health and substance misuse.
The league involves women and men, and fair play points are awarded to reflect gender mix and verbal and physical respect.