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Former Norway national team player Erlend Hanstveit is helping drug addicts and homeless people reintegrate in society through a street football program.

“For me there is no doubt that this project is working.”

Twice a week Hanstveit’s club Brann Bergen organises training sessions for troubled persons. “Most of them have a history of heavy drug abuse”, Hanstveit said to FIFPRO.

“But drugs are not the main problem, social exclusion is. These people feel they have never belonged to anyone or anything in their lives.”

“Sports is a good way to bring them back into normal life, because it gives them a team, a place where they belong.”

People interested in the program, can show up for a session. If they are frequent visitors, then Hanstveit provides them with small but relevant jobs at the club. If they can handle the work for 3 or more months, then Hanstveit will try to get them a job with help of a club sponsor.

Hanstveit, who won league and cup titles with Brann, Helsingborg and AA Gent, said that since he started, 12 men have found work. “That is a huge success for us.”

“We see a personality development that we never imagined would be possible. At the first training some can hardly run or kick a ball. Eighteen months later we see a different person.”

One of them was a man who arrived at the club after 15 years of drug addiction and criminal activities. Now, after two years, he has a contract for a 40-percent job.

“This transformation of people is the most meaningful thing I have ever worked on.”

Norwegian player union NISO - of which Hanstveit is vice president - is also involved, as it aims to get professional players involved in assisting with similar programs at one of the 17 participating clubs.

2017 Norway 640Erlend Hanstveit and the Norwegian team at the 2017 Homeless World Cup in Oslo

At Brann, each month a first-team player will appear at a session. “Drinking coffee with a first team player is also social inclusion. And at NISO we are also of the opinion that this is good as well for the first team players, to keep in touch with society.”

“In the beginning we encountered scepticism at Brann: ‘Why does this team want to work with drug addicts?’ Now various organisations applaud how clubs and players use their power to change people.”

The training sessions run throughout the entire year, including on Christmas Eve or other holidays. “These are the days that people will feel most lonely. For us, it is no problem, as professional players we are used to playing every day of the year.”

Some of Hanstveit’s players appeared in previous editions of the Homeless World Cup. This year’s edition will kick off on Saturday in Cardiff, Wales.

“It’s so nice to see the teams’ spirit at the Homeless World Cup. These are not just individuals who are meeting to play football against other teams. They trust each other, help each other, celebrate together and cry together. For this group of human beings this is more important than we can imagine.”

 

Top photo: Erland Hanstveit presents the FIFPRO Fair Play Award to Greek player Apostolos Petridis at the 2017 Homeless World Cup in Oslo