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Playing till it hurts no more

 Street News Service 27 September 2019

As a little girl Ghislaine Vos (27) loved football and sport activities. But it was the same sport that later became her enemy. Training was an obsession, right through the pain. The Homeless World Cup was the turning point in her life. (1233 Words) - By Danielle Batist

SNS (EU)_Ghislaine Vos

Ghislaine Vos at Copacobana beach. Photo: Danielle Batist

"I grew up in a village in the east of the Netherlands. As a child I played football in the fields together with my brothers. I wanted to play for a club but there weren't enough girls to form a team. I haven't had a nice childhood. My parents were fighting a lot and my bond with them was not good. I didn't get along with my brothers and sister either. There was very little care and structure in our family. I have gone through traumatic experiences as a child. I didn't know how to deal with them.

"Secondary school was an hour's bike ride away. My sister got bullied in school because she was overweight. My sister used to say to me that I was fat, but that wasn't true at all. I was so insecure that I believed here. Slowly I developed an eating disorder. I ate next to nothing and was very malnourished. That one hour bike ride became a nightmare. My parents saw things weren't going well with me, but insisted I would cycle to school as my brothers and sister had done so, too."

"As a teenager I became very scared and insecure. At school things went downhill. I was doing my A-levels, but dodged classes a lot. I changed schools but that was no success either. Classmates introduced me to alcohol and drugs. I had side jobs and started working more and more to earn cash. I spent all my money on clothes, drinks and drugs. The traumatic experiences from my youth had made me very insecure. Drugs and alcohol helped to make me feel better. At least, that's what I believed at the time."

"My marks got worse. Teachers started to notice my bad results. Once, I told a teacher what I had been through. He alarmed the school counsselor. I met him once but quit after one session. Although I realised I had problems, I did not want to admit it."

"Shortly afterwards I moved in with my then boyfriend. I was young and it wasn't a good relationshiop. Things didn't go well with me in that period. When my boyfriend was away I got afraid and scared to leave the house. I used soft drugs and alcohol. Thankfully I never got into hard drugs. Although, if they would have offered me it at the time, I would have taken it for sure. I was naive and didn't see the dangers of addiction."

"I moved from the city of Nijmegen to The Hague and later to Utrecht. I wanted to study to be a social worker, but I didn't pass the entry exams. That was a big disappointment. I worked a lot to pay for my living expenses and my addiction. I worked as a carer and had hospitality and retail jobs. I shared a house with a few other girls. It was always noisy and I couldn't cope with the stress. My eating disorder got worse and I developed more obsessive behaviour."

"Sports became an obsession for me. Swimming, running, marshall arts: I did anything to burn calories. I trained until the pain became unbearable, and continued even then. I quit only when I almost couldn't stand on my feet anymore. Eating was still a no-go. Sometimes people said: 'you are ruining your body', but I didn't believe them. Not eating and training excessively were like a form of punishment to me. When I had used a lot of drugs, I had to train it off. It felt like compensation. I totally worn myself out. How I coped, I still don't know. I lived on the edge for a very long time."

"In that period I also developed an interest in all sorts of religions. I totally lost myself in the Rastafarian belief and later also hinduism. I became a stranger to myself; all I could think about were those religions. It was a denial of my own problems. At some point things got out of hand. My anxiety attacks got worse and I barely got out of the house. For months, I didn't eat any fresh food like fruit or veg. I neglected myself."

"A Social Services inspector in the end raised the alarm. I was living on benefits and sometimes they came and check how I was coping. My mum had heard I was not doing well and said that she wanted to help me. She took me to France, where my parents had a house. It was a disaster. We had a huge fight and I ended up kicking her."

"Back in the Netherlands things went wrong again. When I saw my mum next I confronted her and got very agressive. The situation got out of hand and someone called the police. They took me away and I spent the night in a police cell. The next day they brought me to a mental hospital and gave me medication to make me calm. After a few days they let me go. My problems were of course not solved in such a short time and it didn't take long before things went wrong again. I was forced to go back to the mental hospital, this time for a couple of months. That was eightteen months ago."

"During my stay in the clinic I finally got the care I needed. I got treated by a psychiatrist and participated in group therapy. I could share my feelings with the women in our group. It was a healing experience to talk about my past and realise a lot of women have experienced similar things, for example in the way the deal with their families. I got a lot of support from them."

"One day me and one of my social workers talked about football. I said I liked playing and he told me about the street soccer project in Utrecht. It felt right from the first training on. When I heard I got selected for the Dutch women's team I was happy and also quite proud. It was exciting and from the moment we got to Rio I had a good feeling. I have faith in myself- something I haven't had for a long time. I realise now that 'normal' training is an option. You don't always have to play in pain and can actually end a session having some energy left. That is a new experience to me and I enjoy it."

"When I'm back form Rio, I'll make a new start. I've got my own place again in Utrecht and have just started a social work course. I have always liked that field of work. I know like no other how important it is to have good care. During an internship in an asylum seekers centre I worked with children and I really enjoyed that. It is useful work and you get a lot back from the kids. I am no longer afraid to have a relapse. It was a long journey, but I am strong enough now."




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