Victory helps celebrate homeless street soccer

The Big Issue’s Street Soccer Program Best and Fairest Awards were recently celebrated, with Melbourne Victory players Michael Theoklitos and Daniel Vasilevski assisting in celebrating the efforts and achievements of the players.

The Big Issue-s Street Soccer Program Best and Fairest Awards were recently celebrated, with Melbourne Victory players Michael Theoklitos and Daniel Vasilevski assisting in celebrating the efforts and achievements of the players.

Theoklitos and Vasilevski joined the Street Socceroos players, staff and supporters in a night which encompassed the awarding of the best and fairest players for the season to date, but was ultimately a celebration of the development and positive changes made to the lives of all involved in the program.

Crowd favourite Stevie Maloney took out the 2008 Melbourne Best and Fairest Award with 32 votes. The runner up was awarded to Enzo Neghad with 17 votes and third place to Trung Nguyen with 12 votes. The Most Improved Player Award went to Paul “Pommy” McCourt, while the Coach-s Encouragement Award went to Vanny Nguyen.

Coach of the Melbourne Street Soccer Program George Halkias applauded the efforts of all players involved with the program.

“The program isn-t about winning - it-s about having a go, feeling part of a team, and helping and supporting each other,” Halkias said.

“Our players face a lot of hurdles in their lives, but not matter what else happens, they know they can come to training each week and feel like they-re part of one big family. Every player involved with the program should be incredibly proud of their achievements.”

Best and Fairest Winner Stevie Maloney has been a regular face at training for the last 12 months and represented Victoria in The Big Issue-s 2008 National Street Soccer Championships.

“I-m wrapped with the award, but we-re all winners just for being here today anyway,” Maloney said.

“Sometimes people don-t understand when I try to explain how important soccer is to me, but it has dead set helped me change my life.”

Theoklitos felt privileged to gain an insight into the Street Socceroo program.

“This was a great night, it is fantastic to see that everyone here, regardless of the challenges they may be facing in their own lives, can come together and forget about their troubles by playing football.”

Theoklitos- praise was echoed by teammate Vasilevski, who believed the evening really put things into perspective.

“Meeting all the Street Socceroos made me think about how lucky we are, to see that even though most of these guys are facing enormous challenges they are still so happy to just be playing football.

“Learning that my childhood hero, former Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, as an ambassador for the Homeless World Cup, made me realise just how significant and worthwhile this event is right around the world.”

The street soccer program is a community initiative of The Big Issue Australia. It uses football as a catalyst for transforming lives, by reconnecting homeless and marginalised people with the community and providing them a real sense of purpose and belonging.

Weekly training provides people who may have experienced homelessness, substance abuse or disadvantage the opportunity to get fit, make new friends and seek support and advice.

Victory is proud to support such a worthy will continue its support in the lead up to the Homeless World Cup, taking place from 1-7 December at Federation Square and Birrarung Marr.

For further information about the Homeless World Cup please click here.