Tracey, Australia 2005
Tracey was part of the Australian team that was voted best new team after finishing in seventh place at the Homeless World Cup in Edinburgh. This is her story.
Tracey started as streetpaper vendor in Melbourne in 2005 and went to
her first Street Socceroos training session in January 2005, after
finally agreeing to attend at the insistence of George, the coach and a
worker at the Big Issue.
"I was homeless for four years after losing my house as a result of drug addiction and mixing with the wrong people. I also lost friends and family in the process basically lost everythingâ€¦I was literally in the gutter and felt depressed suicidal and at the end of my life. I felt like getting even more into drugs to get away from life I did not see a future and could not look forwardsâ€¦ My life was drugs alcohol and the gutter."
As the only female there, Tracey had every reason to be nervous about trying to break into the boys club. She didnâ€™t expect to go back to another training session, and certainly never dreamed that seven months later she would be representing her country in the Homeless World Cup.
"I was encouraged by my coach George - actually he convinced me, he actually mentioned it every time I saw him in the office. I had not played any sport for around 20 years but just wanted to get involved in something and feel part of something. There wasnâ€™t much to my life really so this was just something different. But it was daunting being one of a few girls in the project."
Thanks to the way she was welcomed into the team and included in the game, training sessions became a regular part of Traceyâ€™s Wednesday afternoons. As well as feeling physically and mentally healthier, Tracey also noticed her self-esteem and confidence improved as a result of the experience. As she says: â€œIâ€™m not scared to try new things anymore.â€
In July 2005, Tracey was selected to be part of the first Australian team to participate in the Homeless World Cup in Edinburgh. Tracey describes her first trip out of Victoria as a â€œonce in a lifetime experienceâ€ and is still in contact with players from other countries.
"The Homeless World Cup made me ecstatic, proud, I wanted to tell everyone, tell the whole world. It was the first time in my life that they would be proud of me. Also a few male vendors did not think I would make itâ€¦so I showed them! I knew that I could achieve any goal if I put my mind to it. For the first time in my life. I showed some dedication to something and it paid off. When playing I was nervous, happy, scared. I felt a great sense of achievement and pride and even though I only played few minutes here. There is nothing better that representing you country."
"At the end I was a bit sad saying goodbye to many new friends but again I knew I was one of the first team that Australia ever sent to the Homeless World Cup. It was an experience of a lifetime."
"It was unforgettable, amazing. I'd love to do it again but it's great that someone else will have the same opportunity in the future."
After the excitement of two weeks of soccer in Scotland, Tracey came back to selling the Big Issue in Melbourne. One of the first things she noticed was her childrenâ€™s new-found respect for her â€“ they were very proud to have a mum who went overseas to play for Australia!
Tracey moved into transitional housing, a lovely two bedroom house where her children sometimes stay with her. She has also started a part- time job in a laundrette and is getting back into the swing of soccer training.
Tracey says: "I am now in secure transitional housing and I am
so happy. But I am so much more confident and see the world
differently. There are people that care and there are people that can help -soccer
showed me that. But you have to do the hard work yourself too.
"I have almost finished totally my drug rehab program and am drug free, I want to give something back to the community and to the program that helped me. I now have a new job as cleaner/laundry assistant at a menâ€™s alcoholics centre and I help out in lots of ways. It's a great job and I like interaction with staff and the men there.
"I can now see where I am heading in life and that is a life with a house a job and my family back. I want to enjoy life and I want to get the trust of my family back.
"I know where I have been and I know exactly where I want to go. I owe a lot to the Street Socceroos program and would encourage more women to play and become part of the team."