Capital coach helps Indian players compete in Homeless World Cup

Andy Hook with the football team. Picture: contributed
Andy Hook with the football team. Picture: contributed
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The competitors live in slums across India, earn £20 a month and are so poor that they play football in the street without shoes.

But with help from city coach Andy Hook they can look forward to a brighter future as they represent India in the Homeless World Cup.

The 59-year-old from Craigentinny has just returned from Chennai where the squad has been training on a makeshift pitch in the middle of a swamp.

The Indian teams arrived in Edinburgh late on Thursday – tired and struggling with Scotland’s colder climate – ahead of the seven-day tournament which kicks off in Glasgow tomorrow. All the players are from shanty towns across India.

READ MORE: Football saved my life, Homeless World Cup captain says

They were selected after taking part in tournaments around the country organised by Slum Soccer – the South Asian equivalent of Street Soccer Scotland.

Andy, a full-time development manager with Street Soccer, has been to India eight times to help develop the coaching programmes and believes in the power of football to change lives for the better.

He said: “This is a life-changing experience for these guys and it will give them so much self-confidence. They don’t have a football culture over there to fall back on but quite a few of them are now working as young coaches.

“They will come back to India as heroes and they will be able to help others engage with football and the positive effects it will have.

“This is their first time travelling. Some of them have never had a passport before or a visa. It has taken them 30 hours on a train to Mumbai just to catch the flight. It has been a long week for them.”

The teams were chosen according to attitude and commitment, with 16 individuals picked to represent India.

Assistant coach Homkant Surandase, himself the son of a labourer, said: “The players come from underprivileged areas across India. Some come from a criminal background. Most of the players are playing without shoes or gloves. The pitches are very bad. There is no grass, no turf and most play in the street.”

The international tournament, which will see more than 500 players competing from across the world, is aimed at giving homeless people a boost.

India’s men’s squad will play Indonesia on Sunday, while the women will face Chile.

“It will be a mix of emotions when Scotland plays India,” Andy added. “It is always the case as a coach that you want the best for your own team, but the main thing is that they perform well and don’t let themselves down.”

The arrival of the players from India comes as Glasgow’s George Square is transformed into a tournament arena – capable of seating 3500 spectators – ahead of the event’s launch.

john.connell@jpress.co.uk