World Cup dream inspires a generation

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Becca Mushrow, Rachael Brown and Jess Lomax © Chris Mcintyre

Two young local women have been selected as part of the England team to participate in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico City.

Becca Mushrow, 18, from Toxteth, and Jess Lomax, 19, from Huyton, have both had personal experiences with homelessness and hope to enrich their lives by competing in the tournament.

Becca has been playing football since she was a small child and she’s salivating at the prospect of this ‘once in a lifetime experience’. With the help of Liverpool Homeless Football Club (LHFC) patron and goalkeeper for Everton ladies’ team, Rachael Brown, she hopes to advance her footballing career after the games.

Becca told JMU Journalism: “I can’t believe I’m actually playing for England, it’s a great opportunity and I’m actually going to try and make it as a professional when I’m older.”

In footballing terms, Liverpool is known best for its passionate rivalry between their two most decorated teams, Liverpool FC and Everton FC. However in recent years they’ve managed to bury the hatchet in order to collaborate to give vulnerable people a chance and get the homeless population involved in football.

LHFC was established in 2007 when local hostels and drop-in centres worked together to set up an eight-team league. It now boasts 18 teams within the Merseyside area and with strong links to the recently inaugurated Homeless FA, it gives their players the opportunity to get involved with the national set-up.

Initially the focus was solely placed on homeless men, but the onus has shifted and in recent months, and women have begun to undertake a vital role.

John Finnegan, chairman of LHFC, has 20 years’ experience with homeless people and believes football can make a positive change in the lives of vulnerable people.

Mr Finnegan told JMU Journalism: “I could give you loads of examples of how football has changed peoples’ lives in Liverpool, Jess and Becca are just two examples of that. I’ve had numerous lads who have gained employment through this programme and sustained their tenancies.

“I would say from my experience with this programme that football is an effective solution to some of the long term issues that need to be addressed.”

Fifty countries are to be represented at the Mexican games with Scotland returning as reigning champions. The Homeless World Cup Foundation says that the tournament ‘uses the power of football to attract homeless people and offer them the chance to change their lives.’

Jess explains that homelessness can often force people into self-inflicted solitary confinement, isolated and unable to communicate with others. She said that with the help of football, homeless people can build their confidence and change their lives for the better.

Jess told JMU Journalism:  “When you’re trapped in a certain situation, it takes something like this to bring you back out of it and with football, it’s an active sport and it motivates you to get on with your life and try your best.

Becca Mushrow and Jess Lomax © Chris Mcintyre

“There’s nothing more we could ask from the football club. They’re all really nice people and there always there if we need to talk to anybody, it’s all really supportive.”

The future looks bright for LHFC. With gathering support from a number of professional teams and even interest from local comedian and patron John Bishop, awareness continues to be raised across the city.

For now, Jess is eager to get stuck in and represent Liverpool on the biggest stage of her life.

Jess said: “I feel dead proud to be representing my country, I just can’t wait to get there now and hopefully win. Some of the other girls look a bit big but it should be alright, we’ve got our shin pads on.”

About Joshua Nevett, JMU Journalism