Kelly Smith, the UK’s greatest female footballer, impressed by players’ skills in homelessness five-aside tournament

published on 28 Sep 2018

Partnership Trophy 2018

A record number of teams from Salvation Army lifehouses (hostels) competed for the Partnership Trophy yesterday, an annual homelessness football tournament that saw more than a hundred players take to five-aside pitches at Goals in Manchester. 

Guest, Kelly Smith MBE, known for being the UK’s greatest female footballer, attended the day as the special guest, cheering on the 32 teams who had travelled to the tournament from as far as Belfast. She said:

“It's great to be here today, the atmosphere was buzzing. I've had so much fun. 

“I think there's a lot of people here today who have struggled with addiction - drugs or alcohol - or are still struggling. But you'd never know, they're out here with a smile on their face, enjoying the day, enjoying the sunshine and just enjoying playing football. I think football brings a lot of people together and makes you forget about your problems - when you're out there and playing as a team and it's the feel good factor and that's certainly what the Salvation Army have accomplished today in my opinion. It's just been a great day. 

“There are a few teams with really skilled players out there but it's not about ability today, it's about getting together and building each other up and feeling good.”

Now in its eighth year, the tournament is a day for celebrating the achievements of service users, promoting a positive and healthy activity, and boosting the confidence of people who have tackled many obstacles in their lives.

Director of The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Services Mitch Menagh said: “We have a huge focus on wellbeing and that's everything - emotional, mental, physical - and sport and exercise is a big part of that. 

“The Partnership Trophy is an opportunity to bring everyone - our service users, the people we have the pleasure of working with, and staff - together for a good day of football.

“It makes them feel good, it helps builds self-esteem, makes them feel valued, and means as a team they've got to work together.

“It's about building relationships, getting alongside these guys, encouraging them, hearing their stories and making them feel valued. 

“It's about helping them to see the opportunity of a new way of life - so transformation is overarching in this. It's about just changing your mind-set and ultimately changing your lifestyle. Hopefully through the Partnership Trophy, they’re inspired and encouraged by what they see and what they do, to start their own journey, change their own situation. And if we sew the seed that’s a great start.”

Kelly, who has been open about her own struggles with addiction and isolation, inspired the players by taking part in a Q&A over a lunch, which was donated by Partnership Trophy supporters, Pret A Manger. Kelly commented:

“It was great to be able to talk to everyone at lunchtime about my journey as a footballer, leaving home at 16 and moving to America to pursue my career and dream of being a professional footballer, and the challenges I faced with injury, struggling with alcohol addiction for a number of years, being quite isolated and insecure about myself and sharing my story of how I've overcome those challenges.

“And I've kind of reached high levels again after being in quite a sad and dark place and it's taken quite a lot of determination to come out of that and still play for England. It was good to be able to share my story - the highs and lows - to show you can come out and still reach your goals. 

“Instead of being isolated and in your own head, you've got to share your struggles and talk to people and that's the message I tried to get across today.”