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Excluded Youth Football Project

Bringing marginalised young people together

Sporting chance

Since 2013 a team of staff and volunteers from House of Opportunity & FSCI have delivered a football-based project in Boychinovtsi, and latterly, Vratsa Youth Prisons, Bulgaria. Through sport, personal contact and group sessions our team tries to show the young inmates that there are alternatives to a life of crime. This  venture builds upon a relationship, first established during visits by our team in 2011, through which we aim to make a really positive impact upon the lives of the young offenders.

The young offenders (15-21) are overwhelmingly from Roma communities. Roma are the most marginalised group of people in Europe. They make up more than 90 percent of the inmates in the youth prison, compared to 10 percent of the wider population in Bulgaria. With access to education, health and employment all very limited, many Roma turn to crime – with many drawn in from a very young age. So begins a cycle of crime and imprisonment that, for far too many, lasts a lifetime.

When life isn't a game...

Ivayla grew up in state care in Bulgaria. After an unsuccessful attempt to return her to her family, Ivayla was faced with having nowhere to go. Hope seemed to come in an offer to go and play football with a girl’s team in Vienna, Austria. Ivayla loves football, but the director of her old orphanage was worried – bogus sports teams are a ploy used by traffickers to lure vulnerable young people. The director got in touch with us and arranged a meeting with Ivalya, who chose instead to join the House of Opportunity Programme.

The House of Opportunity kept Ivalya safe and gave her the support she needed to make positive choices – she is now married with a family of her own and told us in 2018 that “I have everything I dreamed of. I will never forget what you did for me”.

During the same week we also bring as many of the young residents in our House of Opportunity Programme (HOP) throughout the Balkans together as we can; helping them to develop friendships and working with them as they travel the path to independence from state and foster care. It is great to have the chance to bring HOP residents to one place at the same time – their meeting each other to share their stories and spend time together will be a real encouragement to them and the staff that work so hard to help these vulnerable young people through a key stage in their lives.

Some of the young people accompany the team that visits the youth prison, where they speak to the young men, tell them about our programmes and, of course, join in with the football. These two groups of young people have something in common – both have been marginalised, forgotten and abandoned by a system that has no room to deal with the issues they face. Through sport we can help them take small but significant steps toward changing their futures in a positive way.

If you would like to contribute to our next Excluded Youth Football Project please contact:
UK –
Bulgaria – Teodora,

Project Partners

We are very grateful to have received support for the Excluded Youth Project from:
Reagan Milstein Foundation: some kit and equipment.
Sofia Municipality: Since 2018 Sofia Municipality has provided partial coverage of the costs of the camp, as part of the Programme for the development of the physical education and sports in Sofia Municipality (Programme priority: Projects, related to free time sports for children and students – programme “Holidays”).


Would your organisation support the Excluded Youth Football Project?