BLACK Cats goalkeeper Craig Gordon provided a safe pair of hands as he handed out trophies at a football tournament for homeless people.
The Homeless Under-25 Football Shield saw teams from charity Centrepoint and three other local hostels take to the field to raise awareness of the problem of people living on the streets.
The Scotland international presented the winners’ shield to residents and staff from the Sunderland City YMCA, who lifted the trophy after outplaying squads from Gentoo Sunderland, the Salvation Army and Centrepoint.
Locum worker Shaun Graham organised the inaugural five-a-side competition, held at the Goals Soccer Centre, in the city’s Durham Road, after being inspired by the young people he works with at Centrepoint’s Sunderland service.
As well as eight close-fought matches, the day included skills sessions and a lunchtime quiz, bringing together homeless young people from the different services and the community.
Teenagers taking part in community sports leaders’ awards helped run the event, while Sunderland AFC and Sunderland City Council’s Grown Sports and Get Into Football project provided kit, staff and equipment.
Martin Gill, Centrepoint’s North East regional manager, said up to 80,000 young people experience homelessness each year and the increasing youth unemployment figures paint a bleak future for them.
He said the work of all four organisations is as important as ever, with Centrepoint determined to end youth homelessness by providing 16-24 year-olds with a safe place to stay and skills and support to help them into education, work and a home of their own.
“The tournament is another example of how youth homeless providers in the city can work together to improve the lives of young people,” he said. “We would like to thank everyone involved, particularly Craig Gordon, for coming down and inspiring the players.
“The Centrepoint team enjoyed the whole day and we’re looking forward to taking another shot at the trophy next year.”
The awards were donated by D&G Trophies.