HUNTINGDON: How football is helping drug addicts kick the habit

A RECOVERING heroin addict is hoping the ‘universal language of football’ will provide the key to kicking the habit for himself and others in similar situations.

Steve Woodford battled with a heroin addiction for 17 years, and spent 10 years behind bars for drugs-related offences.

But since being released from prison in October last year, the 38-year-old says he is forging a path to recovery and five weeks ago started running a football drop-in session in Huntingdon for recovering addicts entitled Streets Revolution.

Steve said: “Football is a universal language for boys and girls. It is a chance to come and get involved in sport and activity, and what we find as time goes on they would open up.

“People would prefer to talk to me, rather than sit at a table with a probation officer. We are not professionals, but we can steer people in the right direction and give them an activity to do that keeps them off the streets.

“It is open to any person that has been labelled by society - ex-offenders, drug addicts, people with mental health issues. We are trying to engage them.”

Steve was 11 when he was taken into care after his parents divorced. He soon becoming involved in drug-taking which spiralled into a life of crime.

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For the last two years the father of three has been battling to stay clean and contacted Streets Revolution founder John Regler, after scouring the internet for a project to get involved with.

John, who runs projects in Oxford, Bicester, Swindon, and Kenya, was inspired to set up Streets Revolution, after volunteering at the Homeless World Cup in Milan in 2009.

John is now chairman of the Homeless Football Network and the newly formed Homeless Football Association.

He said: “Football is our national sport and a lot of lads will grow up, kicking a ball around, thinking they are the next Wayne Rooney.

“Put a football out and people will come to have a kick about. We want to get people involved and to take ownership of the project.

“Our target audience is marginalised adults: homeless people, people with mental health problems or drug and alcohol issues, ex-offenders.

“If society has given you a label that means you feel excluded, we want to help you get rid of that label and give you a positive one.”

A Football Association coach currently leads the sessions free-of-charge though hopes are to secure funding once numbers are built up.

Steve added: “John’s got a recovering alcoholic that is 56 and he helps out - he cleans the boots and sorts the kits out. There is also a heroin addict who within six months of starting at Streets Revolution was clean, so it does work.”

INFORMATION: Anyone who wants to take part can drop in at Riverside Park, Hartford Road on Tuesdays from 10.30am to noon. The sessions are open to anyone aged over 16. There is no upper age limit. To find out more contact Steve on 07706513911 or e-mail