[slideshow]Words by Ben Carpenter, Photography by Chris McIntyre
Season Six kicks off with Diversity Day.
This week saw the return of LHFC’s 5-a-side Homeless League. It has been a long wait since the curtain came down on the 2011-12 Season in May. But it was worth the wait….
Like previous years the first match day was themed ‘Diversity Day’ as a demonstration of the club’s commitment towards respect, equality and inclusion. The launch of a new season is always a fantastic occasion and this was no different. Before the football began, the players gathered to listen to local comedian, motivational speaker and disability rights campaigner: Gary Skyner.
Gary entertained the audience of approximately 100 players, volunteers and staff with a quick witted stand-up comedy routine. The ice was well and truly broken! Gary then took the opportunity to add a serious message to all the players:
“There is a stigma around homelessness just as there is a stigma surrounding people with disabilities. But that has never stopped me from going on to achieve the things that I have done.” Gary explained that he was only the second person in the UK to be born physically disabled due to the drug Thalidomide, but this had not prevented him from chasing his dreams and becoming a successful stand-up comedian. He continued: “Everyone here has a heart and a body so go out there and give it your best shot”. These were inspirational words not lost on anyone in the room.
Before the whistle was blown and before any balls were kicked, a poignant ceremony took place in memory of the 96 football fans that were tragically killed in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. Several LHFC players released 96 red and blue balloons into the air as a sign of respect. Club Secretary Stephen Barton explained that it was “a show of support for the Justice Campaign that has united the city in recent years.”
Let the Games Begin…
Despite the grizzly October weather, over 80 players turned up to play for their hostels as the new look divisions were finally revealed. There were many familiar faces and many new ones as well as the teams soon got on with the fixtures. There are 18 teams in total, split in to three divisions of six teams. The format is standard 5-a-side rules with rolling substitutes. Some of the referees are ex-players who have been involved with the club for a long time.
Click here to see all the results & tables from match day 1 – Thanks to our partners: The Liverpool County FA, The Powerleague, The FA Small Sided Games & The Jamie Carragher 23 Foundation.
Chair of LHFC John Finnigan was extremely proud as he declared the 2012-13 Season officially open. “This is the sixth season that we have organised and it gets better and better each year! This is what it’s all about; providing a positive activity for the lads to enjoy. For many of these lads, this is the highlight of their month and something very important for them to focus on. You can’t imagine how important that is for someone who is trying to get their life back on track.”
More than Football…
There was a buzz of excitement throughout the whole day whether you were by the pitch or upstairs in the clubhouse where players ate a nutritious lunch and accessed support services. LHFC volunteer & YMCA Support Worker Christine Tierney revealed “The football is the incentive to get involved with these events, and whilst the players are here it’s important that they are able to access further support such as training opportunities and basic medical checks.”
Chris Orme was volunteering for the first time at match day one and he summed it up well: “The atmosphere is amazing, and the camaraderie amongst the players is great to see. It’s changed my perception of homelessness and I’m keen to stay involved with this fantastic project!”.
If you are interested in finding out more about our special guest Gary Skyner – check out his website: http://www.garyskynercomedy.com/