Football legend Julio Arca kicks off training at Lifehouse

published on 19 Jan 2023

Sunderland footballing legend Julio Arca is to provide weekly football and fitness sessions to residents of The Salvation Army’s Swan Lodge, which provides accommodation to people who are homeless.

The Argentine national who played as left back and midfield for Sunderland AFC and then for Middlesbrough FC will host sessions each Wednesday in a bid to help residents boost their fitness and footballing skills.

A sporting legend within the city, Julio also played for under 20s Argentina national team at the Fifa World Cup in 2001.

Swan Lodge’s support worker Andy Smith, who runs football sessions for the residents, said: “We are all so excited to have an icon like Julio coming to train us. A lot of our residents are huge footy fans.

Julio Arca at Swan Lodge

“We’ve been running football sessions for our residents for years now and have seen what a difference it makes to them, not only with boosting physical fitness, but helping to build teamwork skills, resilience and improving mental health.

“Julio will not only be helping our clients hone their football skills, but will be providing general fitness training for those who want to improve their health.

“A lot of our residents are used to being ignored or dismissed in life, many have had and are still going through a rough time, so to have someone like Julio give their time every week to help our clients is just amazing. Word has got around that this is happening and there’s lots of interest from our lads and lasses.

“Julio is such an icon in the North East, not only for his football but also for what he gives back to the region, he’s really supportive of the community and wants the best for us.”

Julio is such an icon in the North East, not only for his football but also for what he gives back to the region
Andy Smith

One of the big events of the year for our residents is The Salvation Army’s Partnership Trophy, a footballing tournament that brings Lifehouses from across the UK together, usually held in Manchester in September.  

Andy continued: “We’ll be training towards that and having Julio will give us that extra edge so hopefully we can bring home the trophy this year!

“We’re also hoping to arrange some charity football matches like the one we did last year for the Bradley Lowery Foundation where we played Northumbria Police - so watch this space. Swan Lodge will be a formidable team having an international footballing hero as our coach!”

Swan Lodge is a Salvation Army Lifehouse providing accommodation for up to 65 adults aged 18 and over who are homeless. As well as providing a place to stay, the service offers support to help people overcome the reasons they became homeless in the first place and move on with their lives.

Stephen smiling into the camera, he is sitting in his living room.

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