A homeless man has contacted his mother for the first time in a year and a half after he represented his country in a football tournament in Scotland.
Gerard Bannon, 24, from the Falls Road in Belfast, played for Northern Ireland in the Homeless World Cup which kicked off earlier this month in front of a capacity crowd in Glasgow.
More than 50 teams took part in the tournament, established to support and inspire through the sport.
Mr Bannon said: “When I became homeless I knew that football helped my mental health issues and me to control my anger and ever since I have been doing stuff like that and I am representing my country now.
“It has also helped my mum get back into contact with me and know that I have changed.
“This is going to be the first time we have spoken in a year and a half and she has invited me down to see her, down over the border.
“It has helped me get my self-confidence back.”
Mr Bannon lives in a hostel in Belfast but hopes to get his own flat soon. He would like to work night shifts in warehouses and has recently gained a forklift truck driving licence.
But for now, football is the only thing on his mind. Up to 100,000 spectators are expected to take in 416 matches over seven days.
Marty Methven, 29, is originally from Perth and a former soldier who moved to Belfast for a relationship but found himself homeless.
“It has been hard adjusting to civilian life but I have had no problems getting motivated to get a job,” he said.
Brendan Kingsmore, 27, is a former captain of the team turned volunteer coach. He said: “The boys are absolutely loving it, you can see a change in every single one of them, positive change.
“It is life changing, they are more confident and there is more togetherness.
“Some of them have issues with confidence and interacting with others but everyone has been together and motivating each other.
“It is amazing and great to see, something I thought I would never see.”