From heroin addict to football hero: how Dundee’s John kicked the habit

© DC Thomson
John McCabe, from Lochee, a volunteer with Street Soccer.

A Dundee man who was addicted to heroin for 12 years has told of how he kicked the habit through football.

John McCabe first tried the class A drug at a party when he was 21 and was immediately hooked.

He spent the next decade preoccupied with getting his next hit and drifting in and out of prison.

However, his life changed when he was offered the chance to train as a coach at Dundee’s branch of Street Soccer.

The initiative offers people from disadvantaged backgrounds – such as the homeless, refugees and those struggling with substance misuse or mental health issues – the chance to play football or do volunteering work.

John, 33,  spoke out ahead of a five-a-side tournament for people from all over Scotland, which was held in Dundee’s SoccerWorld yesterday.

Teams from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, as well as guest teams from Liverpool, Sunderland and Newcastle, took part in the Winter Cup.

John, from Lochee, said: “I used to go to a ‘job shop’ on Friday afternoons and they offered me the chance to learn how to be a coach.

“I got involved with Street Soccer through that and it has completely changed my life.

“Before that I’d had a heroin habit for 12 years – I tried it at a party and that was it.

“From the moment I woke up I’d be thinking about how to get money for drugs, just so I could feel normal.

“I would also sell drugs and was in and out of jail. That was all there was to my life, I had no interests and nothing else to do.”

He said he had managed to keep his head screwed on since getting out of prison in 2013.

“I decided to get help and go on methadone because I wanted to be a proper father to my son,” he said.

“My methadone is now being reduced and I’m halfway to coming off it.

“Playing football and volunteering at Street Soccer has given me so much confidence and a purpose to my days.”

John hopes to find paid work through his involvement with Street Soccer.

The initiative was founded in 2009 by David Duke, who was homeless in Glasgow and got involved with football when he saw a poster for the Homeless World Cup team in his hostel.

Street Soccer now has 2,000 players aged between 16 and 61 registered in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

David said: “Our mission is to provide people with purpose, confidence, and the chance to communicate with others in a similar situation.

“The people we help are often socially isolated and lack direction in life, so football gives them something to focus on.”