It was an amazing and inspirational evening at the Waterside Inn in Seamill as the great and the good of North Ayrshire sport were honoured at the third North Ayrshire Sports Awards.
There were many remarkable and inspirational stories of grassroots volunteers pulling out all the stops whether it was coaching, organising or participating, and it was a wonderful advertisement for not just North Ayrshire, but Scottish sport in general.
NAC chief executive Elma Murray epitomised the mood of the night by saying she was immensely proud of all our athletes, coaches and volunteers who have helped shape a strong legacy from the Commonwealth Games in 2014, and the future is bright.
The night got underway with an introduction from Bryan Burnett, once again compere of the event, and introductions from Provost Ian Clarkson and Caroline Paterson, Group Editor of Ayrshire Weekly Press, who staged the event together with sponsors KA Leisure, Ayrshire College and North Ayrshire Council.
The guest speaker for the evening was David Duke, the founder and CEO of Street Soccer Scotland, Named Charity of the Year 2017, which uses football to create positive change in the lives of socially disadvantaged people, and pioneer of Change Centre Scotland, which tackles homelessness by creating personal development and self management centres.
Street Soccer Scotland uses football to engage with people who are disconnected from society from homelessness to addiction issues and mental health, and sport helps to break down barriers.
He said: “I grew up in Govan, and my dad was an alcoholic. I was forced to give up school, and came up with mad scams like out of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and selling pirate videos to make money. I was numb when my father died, and moved away from family and friends, and was working in a bar and drinking too much. I went around a period aged from 21 to 24 of being homeless in Glasgow. It was football that got me out of that downward spiral.
“Some people are blessed to have that family support network, but not everyone has that. Football gave me structure, from waking up and having no purpose to having a renewed belief and starting to look after yourself. Everyone should have security, relationships and purpose. Football gave me something to look forward to, a new peer group, and I wanted to impress my coach Ally Dawson. Your physical and mental health improves, and the Scotland homeless team was just kicking off. Seeing it all happen was really important to me.”
David said: “For me, the change was meeting people from other parts of the world. When you start building friendships from people from Namibia or Kenya, and realise what poverty is to them. I am lucky I live in a country where if you are sick you are looked after, and you can get back into education. I went to college and worked with the homeless, and it all worked together to create Street Soccer.”