Foundation of Light side represent Sunderland in Street Soccer National Cup

Foundation of Light side represent Sunderland in Street Soccer National Cup

Foundation of Light and around 200 participants from Street Soccer Academies across the country competed to be crowned national champions in a tournament held at Leicester City FC’s training ground.

The young adults had all recently completed the ten-week Street Soccer Academy personal development course, and had the opportunity to represent the football club community organisation that hosted their programme in the Street Soccer Academy National Cup.

A Foundation of Light side representing Sunderland were among the 18 teams taking part in the five-a-side tournament, with some stunning goals, clever skills and well-rehearsed teamwork played out in matches across the three groups.

The ten-week course with the Street Soccer Foundation runs nationally using football to inspire and encourage vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to turn their lives around for the better.

Among those in attendance to inspire the Sunderland side on the day was Jack Smithson, who is now an ambassador for the charity after coming through the Sunderland Street Soccer team during a time he was living in a hostel.

“There were challenges,” Smithson said on his journey through the programme. 

"But everyone faces challenges and that's what I kept reminding myself, just to keep moving forward and not fall into a deep hole.

"You have to be positive, especially in those situations because it's very easy to fall into bad habits and go back into a dark hole.

"I trained my mind, if I think of a negative, think of three positives that could be there, so that's what I always do now.

"I've met loads of people on their journeys and it's great to tell my story and hopefully that's a positive they can look towards as well.

"It's one of those where I don't take every day for granted. I'm privileged and I feel it every day.”

Everton in the Community ‘A’ were the winners on the day after a 3-0 final victory over Everton in the Community ‘B’.

Liverpool’s LFC Foundation and Pompey in the Community were the other sides to make it into the semi-final, while it was a group stage exit for the Foundation of Light team.

Everton in the Community’s Jos Emanuael won the Golden Boot scoring 11 goals; Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme took home the Fair Play Team Award; and Akram Alawad, also representing Everton in the Community, was named Player of the Tournament.

The event was a chance for the 18 to 30-year olds, who are homeless or deemed to be at risk of homelessness, to showcase the physical and mental skills they had developed on the course, which covered topics including positive mindset training, mental health, employability and football training during ten weekly sessions.

Spectators who attended to support the teams included colleagues from ICT companies that have sponsored Street Soccer Academies in their local area through ‘The Big Goal’, who cheered the teams on from the sidelines.

Keith Mabbutt, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Street Soccer Foundation, said: “This year’s national finals was the biggest yet since the inception of the Street Soccer Foundation and our sincere thanks go to Leicester City for their generous hosting of the event.

“It was humbling to see so many young people interacting and encouraging each other, and, in instances, cheering other teams on too.

“The commitment they’ve shown sees this as a wonderful reward for their achievement and I hope it can serve as a true platform to inspire as they look to now build out a more positive future for themselves.”

To find out more about the Street Soccer Academy programme, visit: www.streetsoccerfoundation.org.uk and to learn about ‘The Big Goal’ and how your company can get involved to help change lives through football, visit: www.thebiggoal.co.uk

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