A homeless man has contacted his mother for the first time in a year and a half after he represented his country in a football tournament.
Gerard Bannon, 24, from the Falls Road in Belfast, starred for Northern Ireland in the Homeless World Cup which kicked off earlier this month in front of a capacity crowd in Glasgow.
More than 50 teams took part in the 14th tournament which has been described as a “wonderful success” by organisers.
The finals were held on Saturday – both the Mexican men and women’s teams took home the silverware, retaining their titles with 6-1 and 5-0 victories over Brazil and Kyrgyzstan respectively.
Mr Bannon said: “When I became homeless I knew that football helped my mental health issues and control my anger and ever since I have been doing stuff like that and I am representing my country now.
“It has also helped my mum get back into contact with me and know that I have changed.
“This is going to be the first time we have spoken in a year and a half and she has invited me down to see her, down over the border.
“It has helped me get my self-confidence back.”
He lives in the Ormeau Centre hostel in Belfast but hopes to get his own flat soon.
Mr Bannon would like to work night shifts in warehouses and has recently gained a forklift truck driving licence.
But for now football is the only thing on his mind.
Marty Methven, 29, is originally from Perth in Scotland and a former soldier who moved to Belfast for a relationship but found himself homeless.
“It has been hard adjusting to civilian life but I have had no problems getting motivated to get a job.”
Brendan Kingsmore, 27, is a former captain of the team turned volunteer coach.
He said: “The boys are absolutely loving it, you can see a change in every single one of them, positive change.
“It is life changing, they are more confident and there is more togetherness.
“Some of them have issues with confidence and interacting with others but everyone has been together and motivating each other.
“It is amazing and great to see, something I thought I would never see.”
From last year’s team of eight players and one ex-player volunteer coach, seven now have homes and five have full time work.