THREE people who have benefited from the Forest Pitch share their stories.
Dylan Bell, 33, has lived in Edinburgh for the last ten years after emigrating from New Zealand. He has three children with wife Catherine.
Dylan, a pupil support teacher in East Lothian, says: “I like Edinburgh because it’s a really good-sized city with easy links to other main parts of the country. The beach and countryside are close by, too, and there’s just a really good atmosphere here.”
Back home in New Zealand, Dylan often played rugby league and admits before coming to Scotland: “I’d never kicked a round ball.”
He got involved with Forest Pitch after a flyer was posted through his door asking if he’d recently become a British citizen and if he’d like to take part in a special football game.
“I thought it sounded quite fun and because it was out in the forest and I’m quite into forestry and teach bush craft to kids, I thought I would give it a go,” he says.
Dylan says his two young boys are really excited about their dad playing in the games and says the training has given him a great opportunity to meet new people.
“It’s been really good – I haven’t played in many full-sized games and I can’t wait to see the pitch on the day. I’ve seen pictures on the website, but it’s going to be great seeing it up close.”
Although excited, Dylan admits he is a bit worried. He says: “I took the kids out on a school trip a couple of weeks ago to a skate park and ended up hurting my knee, so I’m hoping it’s going to hold on the day.”
Alloysious Massaquoi, 24, has lived in Edinburgh since he was four years old. He moved with his mother and sisters from Liberia to join his father who was studying in the Capital in 1992.
He now considers Edinburgh to be his home and says it is a brilliant place to live. “The people are so friendly and living here has given me so many more opportunities than I would have had in Liberia, like for work and education and I have met so many friends.”
A keen performer, it was his involvement in a play at the Filmhouse that highlighted the opportunity to take part in Forest Pitch.
He was quite keen, having played football from the age of 12, and playing for both the Musselburgh Windsor under-14s, and more recently, Duddingston Amateur Football Club.
“This is such a great event,” he said. “Bringing together people from all different countries and joining together in the specially made kits is great. And of course, meeting people I would never have usually met has been fantastic. I’m definitely excited for the day.”
Makiko Konishi, 42, originally from Yokohama in Japan, lives in Portobello with her husband, Kieran, and their three children.
The couple, who have their own architectural business, met after Makiko completed work experience at Kieran’s company in London. The couple then moved to Japan for three years before settling in the Capital.
“My husband, who is from Edinburgh, had a cousin who lived in the area and when we came to visit we just really liked it. We built our own home here because we like the area,” she says.
“Compared to London, Edinburgh is a lovely place to bring up children, it has clean air and is quite compact. We live one minute away from the sea, and the kids can walk to school right along the promenade with hardly any traffic.”
Makiko was invited to get involved with Forest Pitch by a friend attached to the project, as she has been playing in a local five-a-side league for the past year.
Makiko explains: “When I joined up I wasn’t really sure what it was all about. At first, because I am from Japan and I can’t have dual nationality, I said I couldn’t get involved because players had to have British citizenship. But they broadened it out later so I could take part.
“I love the fact that they are just letting the forest grow back, and not leaving a big statement. It’s really nice that the artist is using his own experiences.”