Today ( 15th July 2016) sees Jan Málek celebrate his 30th birthday here at the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow and, for the Czech Republic player, he can’t think of a better place to be for the milestone, especially as his fellow players prepare to throw him a surprise party.
“I’m really enjoying the tournament, Glasgow is a great city and all the people are really friendly. Everything the city has prepared for all the teams is absolutely perfect. I’m having a lot of fun playing and meeting people from all over the world – it’s a really nice experience,” he said.
And with his relatives back home cheering on the performances of him and his teammates, having the chance to play for his home nation fills Jan with pride.
“I’m really proud to represent the Czech Republic. We have a really nice strip and I give it all my heart when I put it on. My girlfriend is watching every match and my family are constantly sending me good luck messages.”
The tournament represents a culmination of sorts for Jan, as he put his personal difficulties behind him in search of a better life back home in Prague.
“For a lot of years I was in a drug user and spent time in prison. Now I’m involved in community therapy which has made my life much better. I’ve been clean for a very long time now and it’s like the start of a new life for me,” he said.
“I’ve noticed a change within myself since I’ve arrived here, because I’ve seen and met a lot of people who have shared similar problems to me and that has provided me with the energy and motivation to change my life.”
And for Jan, football has provided him with the necessary tools to turn his life round for the better.
Words by Craig Williams - firstname.lastname@example.org