Last Tuesday, two members of the England squad for the Homeless World Cup visited Crystal Palace’s Training Ground to meet several Palace players and manager Roy Hodgson.
The players - Scott and Raph - were also presented with training wear and boots by the club in preparation for the annual Homeless World Cup tournament which begins tomorrow (13 November) in Mexico City. Two-hundred thousand spectators are expected to watch the event live with millions more viewing online as over 500 players head to Mexico to compete.
Scott and Raph were invited to watch Palace train, as part of the club’s relationship with national homeless charity Crisis which began last year as James Tomkins, loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek and several Academy players visited a donation distribution centre in south London last Christmas.
Crisis have supported Scott and Raph in recent years, after both were made homeless.
Scott became street homeless following the death of his grandmother, with whom he lived with until her passing. As he wasn't named in the paperwork for her rented home, he was forced to sleep rough.
Having stayed in a hostel for two years, Scott credits football for the confidence he found to change his life. He said, "I like football a lot. I wouldn't really want to get up for anything other than football, I needed to get myself doing something and football was the way for me."
For Raph, life on the streets began following eviction from his flat on Brick Lane having moved to London from France at the age of 20. “When I was 20-years-old, I came to London a bit clueless about life. I learned the hard way; I made some mistakes."
Moving into a hostel, life became a battle between normality and an entirely abnormal existence at a place he was forced to call home.
"There were 150 men in there and there were people using hard drugs. People died in there. I learnt from the mistake; it pushed me to change. I got a job for the first time ever, I worked in McDonalds for two years and then I also worked as a restaurant manager, all the while living in the hostel. I had a normal job, a normal girlfriend, but then, at the end of the day, I'd come back to a not-normal home. I was ashamed.
"But eventually I started playing football with my mates, then I started playing with Crisis. We all go through stuff, but football brings a sense of closure. It's like a big family playing together, bonding around a football. You forget all your problems."
Raph reflected, "2018 has been a year of big changes for me. I'm now living in a Housing Association flat, and just one week after I moved there I got a job at a gym on the same street. Now I've been selected to play in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico. This experience has given me the power to see further, beyond the here and now.”
On the experience at Palace’s training ground, Raph added, "Mamadou Sakho gave me some good advice. [He said] 'stay composed when you go away for the tournament'. It's inspiring really, watching them practice - it gives us willpower and good energy for the future."
Away from the safety of the Palace training pitches, however, a total of 1,068 people slept rough last year in the five boroughs surrounding the club. To find out more about homelessness, visit crisis.org.uk.
To find out more about Scott and Raph's day at Palace, watch the below video now.