Inspired by the performance of Gareth Bale and the Welsh national football side, a group of Big Issue vendors have formed their own football team.
Big Issue Cymru street football side is now playing in a Cardiff league run by Street Football Wales for homeless and other socially excluded people in the city. Magazine vendors Mark, Tony, Owen and Cornell are now playing in the four-a-side tournament, and currently sit in fifth place in the league of 15 teams.
Tom Watts, The Big Issue’s sales team leader for the region, said the boys had been inspired by Gareth Bale and his teammates reaching the semi-finals of the European Championship 2016.
“It all started last summer when Wales did really well in the Euros – everyone was fired up to start training and join the league,” said Watts. “It’s a really great thing to focus on, and they’ve all got a lot of it already.”
It’s there for those who have reached a very low point in their lives
Keri Harris founded Street Football Wales to use football as a way of providing new opportunities to improve the lives of people who face barriers to be involved in society.
“It’s there for those who have reached a very low point in their lives,” he explained. “It’s an opportunity for people to be involved in something where they will not be judged or stigmatised.”
Harris and Street Football Wales also select players for the Welsh Homeless World Cup team. Trails for the next big, life-changing tournament, happening in Oslo in August, are taking place soon.
This week Big Issue Cymru staff are climbing Pen-Y-Fan with the Big Issue Cymru team and employees from its kit sponsors, Brighter Comms and Pentan Architects.
The walk is part of a fundraising drive to help pay towards booking training facilities, league fees and equipment costs.
The Football Association of Wales (FAW) have also supported the Big Issue team, supplying training kit to get them started.
To donate to The Big Issue Street Football Wales team, go to the Virgin Money Giving fundraising page.