FYPB - Sofiia and Halyna 1.jpg

Feel your personal best - Sofiia and Halyna

"We have been very welcomed, and it helps lift my spirits and puts a smile back on my face."

“It was very emotional for me to leave everything behind. Family, friends, education, work; my whole life behind in Ukraine and starting a new one from nothing.”

Sport plays a huge role in bringing communities together and supporting those most in need, football is helping bring a slice of normality to Sofiia and Halyna’s new lives in Scotland.

Until only a few months ago, millions of people in Ukraine would’ve enjoyed going for a walk, playing football, or attending their local pool with family and friends to keep active and feel better. However, many have been forced to flee their homes to escape conflict, in search of a better life.

As recently as July, Sofiia and Halyna two refugees from Ukraine left what they knew and came to Scotland; and a football programme is providing them with some stability and a new sense of belonging.

Sofiia hails from Kyiv and has recently moved to Paisley with her mum and two sisters after a recent stint staying at a hotel at Glasgow airport. Meanwhile, Halyna travelled from Ternopil and lives in a hotel in Glasgow, with the rest of her family situated down in England.

Despite both speaking some English, it has been hard for the pair to adapt to life in Scotland, especially understanding the Glasgow dialect.

Halyna said:

“It was very emotional for me to leave everything behind. Family, friends, education, work; my whole life behind in Ukraine and starting a new one from nothing.

"We both speak some English, but it has been hard meeting new people with a totally different mentality to what we are used to back home.”

Sofiia then said: “Learning the Glasgow dialect has certainly been a challenge. Also understanding the different cultures, and simple things like driving on a different side of the road have taken a bit of time getting used to.”

The pair heard about Street Soccer Scotland through a ‘Ukrainians in Glasgow’ Facebook page and were encouraged to come along.

Street Soccer Scotland uses football inspired training and personal development as a medium to empower people who are affect by social exclusion, such as people with mental ill-health, homelessness, drug recovery and those with refugee status.

The pair take part in the Street Soccer women’s only programme in Glasgow. With three sessions a week, the sessions provide a safe space for women to engage in a range of activities and allow the girls to socialise with one another and meet new friends.

Sofiia said: “I was very nervous about attending. I hadn’t played football before. My main sport was dancing which I had been doing for over 9 years. Dancing is obviously very different from Football, so it was very daunting to meet new people at a sport I hadn’t played before.

“My worries were eased as there were many other people in a similar boat to me. The sessions have been great! It’s not just football that we do. We do fitness activities, boxercise, Zumba and we travel to different areas dancing.”

The programme also offers peer support and mentoring on things such as coaching, first aid as well as workshops to write CV’s and learn more English.

Halyna said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and getting to meet so many friendly new people. We have been very welcomed, and it helps lift my spirits and puts a smile back on my face.

“The sessions help me to forget all the stressful things that have been happening in my country and I feel really happy after coming to one of the sessions.

"I feel part of a team, with teammates and coaches who support us greatly.”

On how the sessions have supported her, Sofiia said: "Playing football has helped not only with my physical fitness, but it helps to bring me more structure to my days. I like to be in the fresh air outside as it helps me feel more positive and confident about myself.  

“For both of us, we have managed to make lots of new friends and are constantly laughing, talking and most importantly having fun.”

Morag Woods, Progressions worker for Street Soccer Scotland highlighted on the impact Steet Soccer have had on the women. She said: “The girls love coming to sessions almost every week. It’s great to see them smiling and finding the chance to support one another through sport – most of them had never played football before arriving in Scotland, so it really shows the power that sport and community can have.”

Sofiia and Halyna were also fortunate enough to represent Ukraine at the inaugural Street Soccer Nations Cup, held in Dundee in September. The tournament welcomed over 160 players with nine nations represented from participants of Street Soccer’s programmes.

The event was an opportunity for players from street football projects across the globe to represent their country, come together and share experiences in the hope of offering connection, hope happiness and building self-belief among the participants.

On what they would say to anyone thinking about getting started in a new sport. Sofiia said: “Don’t be scared and don’t be shy to try new things even if you are not good at it. You only have one life. With training and support you can improve.”

Find out more

Physical activity is central to good mental health and wellbeing. By finding ways to fit activity into your day, you will feel a difference in your mood and energy levels. SAMH, Public Health Scotland and sportscotland are working together to help you #FeelYourPersonalBest.

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