Street Leagues on the ball

Photo Courtesy of Anna Lavery PR.

David Prendeville

Street Leagues is a moving, inspiring and humane documentary. Deftly directed by Daniel F. Holmes, the film tells the story of the Irish Homeless Street Leagues, a non-profit organization based in Dublin that uses the power of sport to transform the lives of the socially excluded.

The film follows a group of players as they rise from their daily struggles to compete on the world stage in the Homeless World Cup, finding self-worth and a sense of purpose along the way. Featuring contributions from actor Colin Farrell (the ambassador for the team), the film showcases the dramatic ripple effect that’s possible within any society when its marginalized members are empowered to fulfill their true potential.

In most cases, these are people who are homeless, out of prison, or recovering from addiction. Many players have gone from being on the streets to fully reintegrating back into society with-in a year after they’ve regained their self-worth from playing in the Street Leagues.

As Ireland’s homelessness crisis continues to get alarmingly worse (a 300% increase in the past five years), the grassroots efforts of the Street Leagues have never been more necessary.

The Street Leagues were founded by Sean Kavanagh in 2002 in an effort to connect with local young people who were heading down a dark path in life. Recalling how great he felt when he played soccer as a boy, Sean had the idea to engage with them by holding a soccer tournament. In his words, “The reason why sport is so effective at changing people’s mindset is that when you’re playing sport, you’re out of your environment. You become a different person. You’re no longer troubled by the baggage of your lifestyle and all your problems are forgotten.”

Sean was amazed when over 200 people showed up to the first tournament. The following year, Sean brought a selection of Irish players to compete in the inaugural Homeless World Cup in Austria and then expanded the Street Leagues into a weekly program to provide support to players year-round. With over 3,000 participants to date, the Street Leagues have proven to be a vital lifeline for men and women of all ages to get their lives back on track.The film was shot in 2017, documenting the Irish team’s journey to compete in the Homeless World Cup in Oslo, Norway. Together, the players form a unique, charismatic and deeply inspiring group of people with one shared goal: to fulfill their true potential and make their country proud on the world stage.

The film captures the team’s once-in-a-lifetime experience as they defy their own expectations and form unshakeable bonds with each other along the way.

Their performances on the field are aided by powerful testimonies from each player, acknowledging the difficulties of their past while also showing well-deserved pride for how far they’ve come from their former realities.

Actor Colin Farrell compares what the players have gone through to his own struggles by saying, “I’ve been to rehab. I’ve been an alcoholic and a drug ad-dict but the only difference is I had something of a film career to step back into. It can happen to any of us, there’s so many factors involved.”

In perhaps the film’s most important sequence, it catches up with the players a year after the Homeless World Cup to see their many successes off the field – the true testament of the Street Leagues’ ability to create lasting change.

Street Leagues had its world premiere at the 2020 Dublin International Film Festival where it received a Special Commendation for Human Rights on Film in recognition by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties – Ireland’s leading independent human rights campaigning organisation.

It is currently on release across Ireland, with all proceeds going to the Irish Homeless Street Leagues. All screenings will also be preceded by a screening of the award-winning short film Warm for Winter, the inspirational story of Paddy Fryers ongoing work to help the homeless.