A football team for the homeless achieved its biggest victory to date when it made it through to its league cup final.
The Bournemouth Churches Housing Association team - known as BCHA FC - includes players who have experienced homelessness or battled with addictions to alcohol or drugs.
BCHA is a major provider of a diverse range of housing, support and learning services for socially excluded people across the South from Plymouth to Reading.
This season BCHA FC scored over 100 goals and won every single game in the SWEA Churches League, taking them all the way to the title match at the County Ground in Poole.
Team coach and founder Daryl Gibbins, is also a full time Senior Practitioner at BCHA’s Young People’s Accommodation Services and it was his work with homeless young people which prompted him to start the team in 2008.
He said: “The team was established to provide a lifeline to homeless and vulnerable people and uses football as a tool to get people back into positive activities and help build their self-esteem and confidence.
“Many of the lads who have been involved with BCHA FC over the years have come along having faced difficulties and struggles most of us cannot imagine. But when they step out onto a football field they become part of a team and their whole focus becomes that team.Daryl Gibbins
“The sense of belonging, the comradeship and utter joy these guys get from football is unmistakable and it’s been a great pleasure to me and to see how this has helped so many of them in their own personal journeys.”
Among the current players is 27-year-old David Coney, who with BCHA’s help now has somewhere to live after being homeless earlier this year.
David said: “Playing in the team alongside the good friends I have made gave me the motivation I needed to improve my life.”
He added: “I've recently just started college as well and I'm already thinking about a level 2 (course) in horticulture in September. So yes, it's going brilliant.”
Harry Walsh, 22 has been playing for BCHA FC since he was 17 and was chosen from players across the country to represent England in the Homeless World Tournament in Portugal when he was just 18.
Harry was homeless for approximately two years after becoming estranged from his father. He now has a home and a job in a bar and says being part of the team has been a huge boost.
“It's helped me with my confidence. It's helped me work with relationships, helped me be positive about things and have better mental health as well.
“It’s also been great being part of a winning football team!”
Sadly, despite dominating the cup match against Bournemouth Community Church (BCC) BCHA lost 2-1.
They remain jubilant however.
“The sense of achievement to have come so far together is huge,” said Daryl.
“I’m so proud of these guys and I’m looking forward to even more success with them in the years to come.”