TWO Portsmouth lads who used to be homeless could soon be representing the country at football.
James Bateman and Eamonn Younger have made it though to the trials for the England team in the Homeless World Cup.
The pair are currently undergoing professional training at West Brom’s stadium, The Hawthorns, under the watchful eye of the coaches who will select the final team.
If chosen, they will jet off to Mexico in October to play in a tournament against 72 other nations.
For James, 24, of Beecham Road, Fratton, it would be a life changing achievement.
Having spent most of his life in foster care, James first became homeless at the age of 21 when he was chased out of his home by threats from his landlord.
He stayed with friends before eventually sleeping rough on the streets and with nowhere left to turn James even considered suicide.
‘I’d hit rock bottom,’ he said.
‘It was the lowest point of my life and I couldn’t see any way out.
‘But one day I realised things couldn’t get any worse and that’s when I decided to do something about it and try to change.’
With the help of Centrepoint, James managed to get a room in a shared accommodation.
He also started playing football with Streets Revolution Portsmouth – a peer lead support organisation which encourages people from socially excluded groups to turn their lives around through football.
It was through SR Portsmouth he applied for the Homeless World Cup.
‘I was chuffed when I found out I’d been chosen for the try-outs, it felt like such a big achievement,’ he said.
‘I never thought I would have the chance to do anything like this, it’s really boosted my confidence.
‘Even if I don’t get on the team it’s been such an amazing experience and has made me want to push myself further in everything else in life.
‘But if I do get picked it will be the highlight of my life.’
It would also mean the world to Eamonn – James’ teammate at SR Portsmouth – to be selected for the official team.
The 30-year-old, of Jersey Road, Stamshaw, moved to Portsmouth from London two years ago.
Having been homeless since the age of 17, battled drug addition and been in and out of prison, Eamonn was looking for a fresh start.
Since moving to the city he has kept on the straight and narrow and feels qualifying for the try-outs shows how far he has come in changing his life around.
He said: ‘This time a few years ago I would’ve never thought I would have the chance to be playing football for the country.
‘I was in a bad way when I came here but to be able to say I’m doing this now feels so good – it’s like I’ve completely turned things around.
‘It’s shown me that I can do stuff and that there are good things out there for me.’
The pair will find out in September if they have been chosen for the team.