A football charity that works with disadvantaged Scots and refugees is helping to tackle the global problem of trauma, a US study has found.
Street Soccer Scotland – which is championed by Scotland skipper Andy Robertson – allows amateur footballers to deal with “complex and development trauma” through sport, according to the research.
The study – published in the journal Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health – interviewed participants of the Street Soccer movement in Scotland as well as in the US.
Academics found: “Trauma exposure is a global public health concern, with lifelong psychological, social, behavioural and physical health detriments.
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“There is a growing need for trauma-informed interventions, with Sport for Development programmes identified as one set of promising interventions.
“Through interviews with players and significant others, it became clear that the Street Soccer programmes were using the popularity and appeal of the sport to achieve broader goals.”
Street Soccer Scotland was set up in 2009 by David Duke with the aim of giving people a platform to make positive changes in their lives through their love of football despite suffering mental health problems, addiction or being homeless and unemployed.
The charity, based in Edinburgh, has helped more than 10,000 people through football-themed training and personal development opportunities.
Other big-name supporters include former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Lead researcher Meredith Whitley, of Adelphi University in New York, said: “We interviewed players and people close to them.
“These are people who have been affected by a wide range of issues and had suffered traumatic experiences in their lives linked to things such as addiction, homelessness and domestic abuse. Many others are refugees coping with separation from loved ones.
“What we found was this gathering to play football was an incredibly positive experience that allowed them to engage more widely with services to cope with trauma. We found it allowed them to build their confidence.
“Another finding was that many coaches did far more than in a sporting sense and, in practice, acted as life coaches.”
Street Soccer Scotland was set up after Duke played in the Homeless World Cup. He managed the Scotland national team to victory in the tournament in Denmark in 2007.
Duke said: “The powerful voices in this report speak for themselves and they should be read by every politician in Scotland. People’s circumstances can often be complex but helping them is not. Giving people relationships, structure and physical activity – and easy access to services – will change lives for the better.”
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