“Football saved my life”: Scotland’s players are ready for Homeless World Cup

John Jack and Andy Byrne have both faced adversity in the build up the tournament in Cardiff. This is how much the Homeless World Cup means to them

Andy Byrne’s appearance at the Homeless World Cup will mark the crowning footballing achievement of his recovery from addiction.

Andy’s journey has seen him play with Maryhill Milan in the Glasgow Sunday Amateur Football League.

Like eight others of the 16-player squad, Andy, 39 (below) from the east end of Glasgow, has been in recovery but has made great strides on and off the pitch.

Andy Byrne
andy-byrne-Scotland-HWC
Andy Byrne plays for a team where almost every player is in recovery, Maryhill Milan. Now he will be representing Scotland

The team have been promoted from the third division since being set up in 2017 and now sit in the first division while Andy is 13 months sober, now living with his partner and eyeing a career in social care after representing Scotland at the Homeless World Cup.

“It’s been a lifetime ambition of mine to play for my country since I was small,” he says. “It will help build my self-worth and shows a lot of changes in me to my family – they are really proud of me and they encourage me, they’re looking forward to it as well. I think I’ll be proud when I step out for that first game, it’s an honour, a privilege.

“I’ll give it my heart and soul. Win, lose or draw, it’s about the occasion and the opportunity. It’s once in a lifetime so I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.”

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And if you are in any doubt about how football can have a positive impact on lives, just take a look at everything that’s happened to John Jack in the last nine weeks.

The 29-year-old from Dundee joined up with Street Soccer Scotland less than three months ago and the intervention in his life has already been transformative.

John was at his lowest point following the break-up of his relationship last September. That sent him into a mental health spiral and left him homeless as he struggled to come to terms with a loss of contact with his children.

“Football saved my life really, if it wasn’t for football then I wouldn’t be here,” says John. “It gives you that relief.

“When do you get the chance to represent your country?” he says. “I’ll be so proud, the pride will be ripping out of me.

“Nervous as well, but proud more than anything. It’s big for my kids as well, I want them to be able to say, ‘I’m proud of my dad’ when they see the video of me playing.”

Images: Street Soccer Scotland