Football has been a persistent presence in street soccer coach Julius Ujeh’s life. He was bought up in Nigeria and as a clever and sporty student he went to university in the USA on a soccer scholarship. He stayed in the states after graduating.

Ujeh grew up in Nigeria in the 1960s and he remembers the delivery trucks that used to weave their way around the city streets. As a reminder to other trucks and cars to slow down, some had a banner with a picture of a bouncing ball and the words “Behind every bouncing ball is a running child”. This image stuck with him and he believes from watching children play that an attraction to a ball is part of being human and that kicking a ball around can take you back to your inner child.

He first heard about the Homeless World Cup through news reports when he was back in Nigeria for a visit. He heard that a Nigerian team was participating in the South African tournament. 'This is the most ridiculous thing ever,' he thought. 'Surely the money would be better used to house and feed the homeless?' But it piqued his interest, and the bouncing ball and the running child image came back to him. So much so that he now runs a street soccer program in San Francisco. He now sees for himself how a life can be turned around by the confidence and self-belief reinstated simply by playing soccer.

He hears stories from the players involved and realises how nearly he could have been in the same boat. Like many of the them he has lost jobs, over-spent, got into debt and been through a relationship break-up which left him temporarily homeless.

“Any off these situations could have snow balled," he says. "I’ve been lucky.”

“I’ve found my passion. I’m praying I have the strength to keep helping people.”

And with ambitions to start up street soccer programs in the Caribbean region, Ujeh must keep that ball bouncing.

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