YOUNGSTERS at a Wearside school were put through their paces by homeless football players hoping to make the national squad.
Members of the Foundation of Light’s Homeless FA team went along to Farringdon Community Academy to pass on their skills to 60 Year 7 pupils.
The foundation, which is the charity arm of Sunderland AFC, is one of just 10 clubs in the country to run training camps for the Homeless FA.
The 21 men and women taking part in Sunderland are all hoping to clinch a place in the Homeless World Cup finals in Chile later this year.
Homeless FA training centres are not just about homeless people learning new footballing skills at a professional club, the emphasis is on personal development, both on and off the pitch.
Players are supported to increase their self-confidence, self-esteem, and offered help to improve stress management, teach leadership and a range of other life skills.
This is the second year the foundation has run the project and course leader, Kevin Darke, said it is proving a huge success with the four women and 17 men taking part.
The Homeless FA advertises the course through a number of national organisations, such as the YMCA and hostels, and those interested in taking part go through a selection process to clinch their place.
Then comes six weeks of training with the participants gaining a Level 1 Sports Leader certificate.
Speaking at the football festival in Farringdon, Kevin said: “The course has been fantastic.
“Talking to the participants this year, they have said it has given them something to focus on and look forward to every week.”
Joining the squad at the academy as a peer mentor was Donald Wheatley, 26, who became homeless after getting into a cycle of drugs and crime.
Donald, who now lives in Seaham and is expecting a baby with his partner, was one of the participants on the scheme last year and was chosen for the Homeless FA Cup Final squad which played in Poland.
Now himself a support worker in a hostel, Donald said: “Doing the course was the best thing I have done, I am always going on about how good it is.
“Being able to travel to Poland was the best life experience I have had so far.”
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