Grassroots Sport: We Are All Somebody - the story of Samantha Richards

Samantha Richards

In 2018 I had the honour of being chosen to represent my country at the Street Child World Cup Moscow.

I was overwhelmed when my coach Jack called me explaining that I would be flown out to Russia to participate in the tournament. The Street Child World Cup wasn’t just a football tournament – it meant so much more than that – but it was a long road to get there. 

I left school after my GCSEs thinking that education wasn’t for me. Fortunately, I was selected to study with Arsenal FC on a programme where I would coach and play football whilst working towards a BTEC Level 3 in Sport.

Arsenal identified me as a vulnerable young person, at risk of going down the wrong path. They introduced me to Centrepoint, a youth homelessness charity, and I began to take part in their weekly women’s football sessions.

Week by week my confidence grew, and I was starting to talk about the problems that I was facing at the time. Whether it was to do with my struggles with mental health, being bullied or my grandad attempting to take his own life, Centrepoint helped me channel my emotions and enhance my coping skills, as well as developing me as a footballer and coach.

I was chosen for Centrepoint’s Team England football programme – this meant that I would have training camps at St George’s Park, where the Lionesses train, as well as having the possibility of being chosen to compete at an international event. To say that I was ecstatic was an understatement.

I had begun to see my own potential, and started to achieve more and more in life: I got my first job and I was doing well with my BTEC, which enabled me to channel my energy into my passion for coaching.

My coaches must also have seen the progress I was making because with my nine teammates I was selected for the Street Child World Cup, and in May 2018 we were on our way to Moscow.
I wasn't prepared for the emotional side of the tournament. I was captivated by the stories of street-connected children from all around the world. The passion and determination in their voices when talking about the challenges they’ve faced is something that will stay with me forever.

The tournament was made up of three parts: football, congress and the arts. For me it was no longer about football abilities, it was about the struggles that we face in our communities back at home and dealing with the stereotypes at-risk young people face. 

In congress, Team England was paired with Team India and we learned a lot about our new friends’ backgrounds. The girls that I shared a football pitch with that morning now told us their stories – stories of young women being snatched from their parents and trafficked, of girls forced into child marriage, of not legally existing because of not being registered at birth - and I was in the bathroom in tears because of it.

Having shared such a profound experience with my new friends I wanted to help them. I wanted to help others like them, and others like me.

I wasn’t sure how to deal with all my emotions when I returned to the UK until I found a pen and paper. I began to write down words every day about how I was feeling; some days it would be happy, some days it would be sad and some days it would even be angry. 

I started to put together a poem from what I wrote to say thank you to Street Child United, for allowing me and my friends from all around the world to have this life-changing opportunity. I wrote about my emotions and spoke of our needs as vulnerable young people. 

Samantha Richards

Having felt a lot better with my emotions off my chest I realised how powerful poetry can be. It can instil hope, it can inspire and you can feel the emotion in the words.

I thought to myself: writing, drawing or being creative, could help my new friends, and others, release their emotions as I had. What if I collected their poems and drawings in a book, bringing together the voices of young people from across the world. What if I could create a book which is a voice of hope and truth?

From that idea came this book of poetry and artwork, a creative platform for people across the world to speak safely and have their voices heard. I hope you enjoy the work, and if you are facing your own challenges, remember: We Are All Somebody.

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