Crystal Palace stars meet England Homeless World Cup players
By Tom Kelly
Last Updated: 13/11/18 4:05pm
Two members of the England Homeless squad travelled to Crystal Palace's training ground to receive some last-minute advice before they take part in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico City.
England are one of 42 countries taking part in the week-long tournament, which is in its 16th year and is expected to be watched by more than 200,000 people.
Two of their players, Scott and Raph, were given a special training camp from former England manager Roy Hodgson, along with a select few of the Crystal Palace squad.
Scott became homeless following the death of his grandmother, with whom he had lived, because he was not named in the paperwork for her rented home.
"I wouldn't really want to get up for anything other than football, I needed to get myself doing something and football was the way for me," he said. "When I was 20, I came to London a bit clueless about life. I learned the hard way, I made some mistakes."
He moved into a hostel he shared with 150 men, some of whom were using hard drugs, but managed to get a job at McDonalds where he eventually became restaurant manager.
"I had a normal job, a normal girlfriend, but then, at the end of the day, I'd come back to a not-normal home," he said. "I was ashamed.
"But eventually I started playing football with my mates, and then I started playing with Crisis. We all go through stuff, but football brings a sense of closure. It's like a big family playing together, bonding around a football. You forget all your problems."
Raph moved to London as a 20-year-old from France but was evicted from his flat in Brick Lane.
After moving into a Housing Association flat he is hoping 2018 can be "a big year of changes".
"Just one week after I moved there I got a job at a gym on the same street," he said. "Now I've been selected to play in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico. This experience has given me the power to see further, beyond the here and now."
Raph and Scott said they were inspired to meet the Crystal Palace players and in particular, Mamadou Sakho.
"He gave me some good advice: stay composed when you go away for the tournament," Raph said.
"It's inspiring really, watching them practice. It gives us willpower and good energy for the future."
Crystal Palace's partnership with Crisis first began last year, as James Tomkins and, then, loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek and a handful of academy players visited a donation distribution centre in south London just under a year ago.
To find out more about homelessness, visit www.crisis.org.uk.