Norwich quartet's chance of world cup glory
By Keith Morris
2008: Four homeless young men from Norwich YMCA have been given the chance of emulating Beckham, Owen and Rooney by representing England in a football world cup finals.
The quartet, who are all residents at the YMCA in Norwich, have been selected for trials at Manchester United to win a place in the final England squad for the Homeless World Cup taking place in Melbourne, Australia in early December.
Michael Douglas, David Dowling, Richard Nelson
and Dinis Cassama
will be travelling up to Manchester for the trials on April 16, dreaming of footballing glory after coming through regional trials held in Norwich.
David Dowling, 25, has been on the books of Tottenham Hotspur and now plays for Norwich Union and Costessey. He said: “It helps to keeps us on the straight and narrow and out of trouble. The coaching from Norwich City has been great and it is a massive opportunity to represent our country. It would be mental to go to Australia, a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Michael Douglas, 30, said: “The Norwich YMCA provides great support and I am over the moon to be in the squad. It is everyone’s dream and ambition to put the shirt on in a world cup and play for your country.”
Dinis Cassama, who was once a trainee with top Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, said: “It is great, a fantastic opportunity.”
The four players are among around 100 other homeless young men who attend the 30-week Street Life Soccer course at Carrow Park. Sponsored by Norwich City Football Club and Football in the Community. Participants attend one hour of Team Talk, which is education based, and one hour of professional football coaching each week.
The YMCA players are also helped by PC Matt Spillman, along with PC Craig Brooke, from the Safer Neighbourhood Team.
PC Spillman said: “It is a superb scheme and helps us to break down barriers. We got a frosty reception at first but now it is giving the lads a focus and they are all improving in discipline, commitment and health.
PC Brooke said: “They have done really well on the field and in the classroom, they do homework and keep a diary of what they eat. It is not just turning up for the game. These four guys are especially good and skilful players.”
YMCA Norfolk chief executive John Drake
is delighted that the four have got so far and has offered to pay for their trip to Manchester. “This is a great opportunity for them,” said John. “We want to help these young men break into career opportunities and this is a real boost for them.”
The England World Cup squad is being organised by The Big Issue in the North and the manager is Richard Brown, who said: “The quartet have been selected for the trials from which a final squad of 8-10 players will be chosen. It’s a chance to meet other people from across the country, take part in physical activity, and it’s a first step towards being part of the England team, a journey which can be literally life changing for those taking part.”
World Cup organisers said: “The Homeless World Cup exists to help the one billion homeless people in our world today. We use football as a trigger to inspire and empower people who are homeless to change their own lives. We do this firstly by creating a world-class, annual, international football tournament; and secondly, by inspiring and supporting grass roots football projects working with homeless and socially excluded people all year round.
“Football is a great leveller, it connects people and is a universal sport for everyone. The Homeless World Cup is able to change the scenery, challenge stereotyping and people who have been spat at the week before are cheered by thousands and treated as soccer heroes during the tournament. The feeling of belonging, challenge of working in a team, regaining a health-oriented attitude towards life, self esteem and last but not least the experience of fun is a powerful combination to change a person's life.”
Around 500 players from 48 nations across the globe attended the last Homeless World Cup event in Copenhagen.
Following the Edinburgh 2005 Homeless World Cup, 77% of players significantly improved their lives through employment, housing, education and/or drug/alcohol treatment programs. 12 players went on to become semi professional or professional footballers or coaches. 94% of players said the Homeless World Cup had a positive impact on their lives.