Saving souls by saving goals at the Homeless World Cup

published on 16 Jul 2019

A Salvation Army Lifehouse resident, Mark Atkinson, has been selected to play in goal for Wales in the Homeless World Cup later this month.

His coach, Wayne Ellaway - a Homeless World Cup veteran once lived in the same Salvation Army Lifehouse – Tŷ Gobaith in Cardiff. The tournament kicks off in Cardiff on 27 July and 500 players who are all experiencing homelessness from more than 50 countries across the globe will compete in the eight day tournament in Bute Park.

And in the build-up to the tournament, both men have been speaking about how The Salvation Army’s Tŷ Gobaith Lifehouse helped them turn their lives around through football. 

Mark Atkinson is on the Bridge Programme at Tŷ Gobaith Lifehouse where he is receiving support to stay sober. He started playing football during his stay at the centre.

“I got involved with the football purely by accident, really. I happened to be sitting around in the day room in Tŷ Gobaith, and I was asked if I wanted to come along to a training session and I had nothing else to do and so with a ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ sort of attitude, I went along and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good afternoon and I’ve been playing ever since” said Mark.

“The football is there for everybody who’s in Tŷ Gobaith and I’m one of those who chose to take up the opportunity to play football so I’m very thankful to Tŷ Gobaith for giving me the opportunity to play football. If they hadn’t given me that opportunity, I wouldn’t be representing my country in the World Cup and I thank Tŷ Gobaith a lot for that and the support I get from all the members of staff there is incredible.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to play for my country, especially at my age. It’s something I didn’t think would happen but thankfully it has and it’s every boy’s dream to play for their country and I’m fulfilling my dream at the moment so as I said it’s a privilege and an honour to represent my country in a home World Cup.”

Wayne Ellaway is a former resident of Tŷ Gobaith Lifehouse in the centre of Cardiff.

The centre offers a safe environment and sanctuary that provides personalised support for people in Cardiff who are experiencing homelessness to move on and rebuild their lives. 

Wayne has played for Wales in the Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam and now is coaching the national team for the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff.

“I got involved in football through playing for The Salvation Army at Tŷ Gobaith on Bute Street. When I went to Tŷ Gobaith, I was isolated, addicted and I had no hope, no future and no purpose. I was financially and emotionally broken – I was crippled. I moved into Tŷ Gobaith in December 2013, then I found Street Football Wales through Tŷ Gobaith in 2014.  I was very physically and emotionally unwell at the start, but I came to a few matches and really enjoyed it. I loved the atmosphere, loved the people and got on really well with everyone. Tŷ Gobaith were fantastic. Christian Wagstaff made sure I was able to get to all my training and George Martin was also very supportive” said Wayne.

“Through football I got a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose. I came along, enjoyed it and in when I decided I wanted to commit to playing football in 2015, I got picked for the Welsh Dragons for the Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam.

“Football doesn’t mean everything, but it is a massive part of my recovery. I don’t depend on it, but it’s the enjoyment and it’s like a family – it’s more than just football, but football is the basis of it and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of Tŷ Gobaith.”

Captain John Stark is the chaplain at Tŷ Gobaith and Northlands Lifehouses and brings residents to play football at Street Football Wales sessions. 

“I’m very proud of Mark and Wayne and what they’ve achieved and it’s great to see Mark doing so well after all the support we’ve given him” said Captain Stark.

“The guys in the Salvation Army football team get a boost for their self-esteem, there’s also the camaraderie and support they give each other and it also improves their confidence and teaches them how to be around other people. And there’s also a mutual support, understanding and appreciation of everyone’s situation – it really is ‘the beautiful game’”.  

The Homeless World Cup is taking place in Cardiff between 27 July and 3 August.