Northern Ireland

Homeless World Cup: NI's women's team hoping for football glory

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Media caption'To represent Northern Ireland, it's a big achievement'

When Kirsty McGuckin lines up at the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff, it will not be her first time pulling on the green jersey.

A decade ago she was representing Northern Ireland at under-19 level.

"I didn't think, honestly, I would kick a football again," she says.

"If you had asked me this even last year, I would have told you 'wise up', basically, that I wouldn't be back kicking," she says.

Image caption Kirsty McGuckin is one of eight players who will travel to the Welsh capital for the annual four-a-side competition

Ms McGuckin fell into homelessness after a number of deaths in her family, and a move away from Ballymena, where she was originally from.

"I got to a stage in life where I kind of lost my way a wee bit," the 29-year-old says.

"I look at it [the football] as a second chance."

'A second chance'

She is one of a number of players from Northern Ireland who will travel to the Welsh capital for the annual four-a-side competition, which kicks off on Saturday and runs until 3 August.

More than 500 players representing 64 teams from around the world will take part. All have faced homelessness.

Northern Ireland will face 14 other nations, including Mexico, the United States, and the Netherlands.

For the first time since the women's team made its debut in the tournament in 2017, it will travel with international players, as the tournament is being held in the UK.

Milan Mehmannavaz and Nasrin Noroozi, both of whom are from Iran but live in Belfast, will travel as part of the team.

'I am so happy'

"I have found this team in the past six months," said Ms Noroozi, who has been living in Belfast for the past three years.

Image caption Nasrin Noroozi is one of two players on the NI team from Iran

"In the past I was playing in Iran on a handball team... my friend Mehrshad [who helps with translation for the players] introduced me to this team.

"We had a friendly game and after that I was interested in playing football. Now I am playing on this team and I am so happy."

Coach Claire Carson says the development of the team and the players has been great.

"I think we all just want to be there already," she says.

Though competition will be stiff, the players are looking forward to pulling on the green shirt.

"To all unite and come together and represent Northern Ireland, it's a big achievement," says Janette Kelly.

"It's something I didn't think I'd be doing."