An Aberdeen football coach has revealed the game helped her beat years of drug addiction.
Sarah Rhind turned her life around at 29 and is now Street Soccer Scotland’s women’s coordinator.
The charity works with people in poverty, those battling addiction, the homeless, long-term unemployed or those with mental health difficulties, using sport as a way to boost positivity and confidence.
They host three weekly sessions, where players can only turn up clean, at the city’s Cryuff Courts to encourage friendly competition and bonding.
And Street Soccer also works with youth employment charity Working Rite to find new opportunities for the players off the pitch.
Last night Ms Rhind said playing football had given her something to look forward to.
She said: “I went through years of addiction and more rehab in Aberdeen and I just knew things had to change.
“I had just reached the end and I knew I couldn’t put my family through this anymore.
“I knew I couldn’t keep going back to rehab in Aberdeen so I looked to a programme in Glasgow in 2014.
“When I was clean they asked me what my interests were and it had been so long that I didn’t know what I liked anymore.
“Then I thought ‘I played football, why don’t I try that?’ so they told me about Street Soccer Scotland.
“When I first went I was a bag of nerves, I couldn’t make eye contact, but my passion for football overcame my fear.
“It really became the focus of my week and something I would really look forward to.”
Ms Rhind then got into coaching and worked for a year at Celtic before the job for Street Soccer Scotland came up – which she described as a “no brainer” for her.
“I can’t believe I get paid to do this,” she said. “It is the most rewarding job ever and seeing the change in people is what it is all about.”
Aberdeen coordinator Peter Wood said the football sessions are open to those with a variety of issues, such asbenefit the players as it gives them something to focus on and makes them feel not only looked after, but part of something again.
They can also get access to support for funding, employment and volunteering opportunities.
Mr Wood said: “I understand how important it is to stay positive and using sport to make you feel more assured in life.
“Our sessions are run with the ethos that everyone, no matter what background, can play and there are various mixed abilities.
“The players benefit in learning about the importance of communication, team work and being respectful of each other
“They improve their mental health, by getting out of the house, being around people and being active in soccer.”
Street Soccer Scotland
Founder David Duke said his own three years on the streets had inspired him to set up Street Soccer Scotland in 2009.
He said: “The vision for the organisation was to make something that people wanted to be part of.
“I experienced homelessness for three years and football was one of the things that really helped me get into education and employment.
“We are based across Scotland but Aberdeen is a real focus area for us. Like any city there are some deep problems and we are really keen to work with any other local organisations.”
Any organisations can contact Street Sport Scotland via info@streetsportscotland