Case study: Joseph

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Joseph, 19, hopes to become a professional football player one day.

Joseph plays for Bradford Park Avenue’s youth team. He quickly showcased his talent, having scored goals in every match he played since joining the club in 2019. Joseph would like to thank Bradford Park Avenue for giving him the chance and hopes to go on to play for the club’s first team.

He is dedicated to football as he trains every day, practicing at the club or in his spare time. He said: “My life is football. Football keeps my life safe.”

Joseph’s passion for football began at an early age. His father got him into the sport and encouraged him to follow his dream to play professionally. Born in Uganda, he played football for a number of academies and clubs. Joseph’s football skills were advanced for his age as he played at a university level standard, whilst he studied at secondary level. He became a semi-professional player for teams competing in the Uganda Premier League and went on to play for regional and semi-professional teams in Kenya. Joseph achieved match titles such as “Best Player”, “Best Midfielder”, “Top Scorer” and “Best Goal Assistant”.

Joseph’s experience of football in the UK is different to the one he knew in Africa. Football was the main focus at the academies he attended, with the team playing, studying and sharing accommodation. He misses this structure here in the UK where training and playing football is separate from other aspects of daily life.

Life in Africa beyond his footballing achievements was difficult for Joseph. His parents passed away when he was young, so Joseph went to live with his adopted parents, who abused, controlled and punished him. He has scars on his back and arms from when he was beaten with a cane and electric wiring. On one occasion, the couple accused him of leaving the heating on and stealing food from the kitchen. As punishment, Joseph was locked in their dark, empty basement for two weeks.

As a child, Joseph saw an opportunity to run away from the house and lived on the street for a number of years. One day he decided to leave his life in Uganda behind and fled to neighbouring Kenya.

In Kenya, he found work in a car park helping to carry luggage for people who were travelling across the country. Joseph slept in the car park until he was given money by a passerby, which he used to travel to another part of the country. Joseph settled for a year playing football for a number of clubs. Whilst there he was identified for resettlement via the Home Office and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assessment process.

He has been receiving support from Horton Housing’s New Communities team since his arrival to the UK in July 2019.

Horton staff helped Joseph find accommodation and helped him settle and integrate into his new life in the UK. Joseph’s support worker helped him to look for local teams, resulting in him getting a trial at Bradford Park Avenue and playing for the youth team.

Joseph has also completed a range of educational courses, including Maths, English, Customer Service, Business, ICT and warehouse training since his arrival in the UK.

He said: “I thank Horton staff so much for their help. When I arrived in the UK I had nothing. I did not know anything about life here. I just stayed at home and studied.

“The staff always make time for me if I need support. They showed me how to do things like use the bus and open a bank account. I would also like to thank them for helping me to access the courses. I am better at English and feel sociable again. I am now more independent.”

Joseph is about to enroll at university to study nursing. He has experience in this area having worked as an outreach worker with refugees at high risk of getting HIV in Kenya, giving medical advice and teaching healthcare. Alongside his studies, Joseph hopes to find nightshift work so that he can continue to focus all his energy on football.

In the future, Joseph would like to move out of Bradford to increase his chances of signing with a big football club. He said: “I would like to become a famous footballer on TV. Someone that people read about and look up to having come so far – from being with my adopted parents and living on the street – to where I am now. I would like to show that you can make it if you keep on trying.”