A HARTLEPOOL team of young men overcoming hardship have lifted a regional trophy.
Young Hartlepool men recovering from drugs, alcohol and homelessness have got back on their feet thanks to football.
The North-East Homeless & Recovery Football Initiative has used the national game to boost the confidence, fitness and focus of those affected.
Organised by charity North East Athletic, the scheme brought together teams from across the region for a six-a-side tournament at The Sports Domes in Seaton Carew.
Mal Maclean, North East Athletic Secretary, said: “Clearly these lads have bigger issues at stake than playing football but it’s also a brilliant distraction for them.
“Football can give them a new focus, encouraging camaraderie, discipline and teamwork, as well as a great way to get fit.
We don’t want to overstate the power of this scheme, but those who benefit from it have told co-ordinators that it has kept them alive.Mal Maclean, North East Athletic Secretary
“The changes we’ve seen in people are absolutely remarkable and we’ve seen a marked reduction among our regulars in drug-use and offending.”
The tournament was won by Hartlepool North East Athletic, who won the trophy at the same venue where they train every week.
Danny Maughan scored the winning goal in the final as the Hartlepool team triumphed over Middlesbrough Homeless & Recovery 1-0.
Players from Hartlepool and Gateshead were also treated to a trip to Merseyside by the initiative, receiving a tour of Everton’s Goodison Park and taking part in a tournament.
Mal added: “We don’t want to overstate the power of this scheme, but those who benefit from it have told co-ordinators that it has kept them alive. That’s very humbling to hear and it emphasises just how important this initiative is.”
Supported by Tees Valley Leisure and funded by Sport England and SPORTA, the 18-month initiative runs weekly sessions in Hartlepool, Durham, Sunderland and Gateshead.
The initiative is open to men and women aged 18 and over.
For more information about attending sessions, call Michael on 07523 114039 for Hartlepool, or Mark on 07403 755948 for Durham.