- Avid footballer Jodie Coombes reconnected with her family after appearing on Match of the Day, alongside Hammers heroes Adrian and Michail Antonio
- The Foundation-backed Street Soccer programme uses football to help improve social skills and job prospects
- Jodie has been invited to train with the Ladies' Development Squad, and will also compete in the 2016 Homeless World Cup in Glasgow this July
The West Ham United Foundation recently celebrated the spectacular the news that one of its Street Soccer Foundation participants has reconnected with her family.
Jodie Coombes, 20, had been homeless after falling out with her Mum and Dad when she was 15, however, the since talented footballer appeared in an episode of the BBC’s Match of the Day, the family’s relationship has greatly improved.
The good news continued as Jodie has now been invited to represent her country in the 2016 Homeless World Cup in Glasgow in July.
The heart-warming story came largely as a result of Jodie’s participation with the Street Soccer Foundation which has dramatically transformed the young footballer’s life, a scheme that has been heavily backed by the West Ham United Foundation.
Reflecting on the life-changing experience, Jodie said: “I first heard about Street Soccer through Torchlight. I met with them, talked through the details and soon started going to the sessions.
“I still participate now. The season just finished went really well, I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it to be honest. The whole experience, the new skills and the new people I’ve met have all been amazing.
“After I’d left home, my parents did stay in contact, but now I’m living independently we’re all trying to rebuild that relationship, and it’s a got a lot better. We’re getting on really good.”
In April, first team stars Adrian and Michail Antonio visited the Foundation’s base at Beckton to show their support and raise awareness for the campaign.
There that day, among other budding footballers was Jodie, whose talent has shone through during the training sessions.
She continued: “Meeting Adrian and Michail was a dream to come true, I met them and I was really, really over the moon, I was speechless!
“They gave loads of tips, and encouraged us to keep on going with what we’re doing.
“I was quite nervous to be honest. The whole experience of being on Match of the Day was a dream come true, it was really amazing.”
After coaching a Street Soccer session Hammers hero Michail Antonio had nothing but praise for the scheme, and the participants: “It’s a great achievement what they’ve managed to do so far and these kids definitely look up and are inspired by players like us.
“Showing our support hopefully gives them more of a drive and gives them that self-belief.
“It’s not easy to get the right opportunities in life but as long as you’re determined and willing to push yourself, it can be done.”
West Ham United Foundation chief-executive Joe Lyons echoed Antonio’s sentiments saying: “This is a fantastic example of how the work we’re carrying out is a real long-term journey for our participants.
“Jodie’s story is quite remarkable and it just shows that the right kind of intervention can help change young people’s lives! To go from being homeless to representing England in a football tournament, just shows local young people that anything is possible.”
The budding footballer finished by recalling the moment she was called up to represent England, beaming: “When I got the phone call to say I was in the squad, I was speechless, I was just so happy. I’ve waited so long for a chance like this, now it has, I just have to keep at it.
“Projects like Street Soccer are so important, they really help people in situations like myself; it really helps to give people a chance to show what they can do, I think they do a great job.”