FORMER Canada international Paul James who featured at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico is now homeless in London.

The Cardiff-born 59-year-old – who went to the same school as Garath Bale – played 47 times for his country.

James in action against the USSR

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James in action against the USSR

And he played against some of football’s best, including France great Michel Platini.

Canada lost all three of their World Cup 86 group games to France, the USSR and Hungary.

But they put in a good account of themselves, especially against France, narrowly losing 1-0.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, James said: “What we achieved at that World Cup was phenomenal, when I think of how good we weren’t.

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“We performed miracles to keep the score lines so predictable.”

But despite turning out at the Olympics and a World Cup, James is now homeless in London having been unemployed for the last 13 years and without a permanent home for six.

Pre-pandemic, James had been living in Canada, but returned to the UK angry at his treatment in the country he represented.

James felt he faced discrimination for his history of using crack cocaine.

He says this was evident when he lost his job as head football coach at York University in Toronto in 2009.

James feels York had a duty of care to offer him support – which he didn’t get – and he says he was forced to resign.

He said: “I don’t think you should call anyone a drug addict, a crack addict, a junkie.

“The words conjure up irrationality and a series of labels which view those exposed as: criminal, scary, irrational, unreliable, to be avoided, diseased, loser, dirty, lazy, scum, non-employable. Can you see how disgusting that language is?

“How do you ever recover from being labelled a homeless crack addict? You don’t.”

Before finding shelter at a hostel near Holborn in Central London, James had been living on scraps of cardboard at Charing Cross or Westminster Cathedral.

James carries around most of his belongings in a black sports bag, and has picked up bits of work, like sweeping the roads on Oxford Street.

But a knee injury made it impossible to continue in that line of work.

Despite this, James is determined not to give up and wants to regain his independence.

On why he wants to support himself, James declared: “To be independent.

“To regain a semblance of normality. To be able to wear my own clothes and shoes and not second-hand ones. To not have to fundraise to purchase my own items.

“To regain independence from the metaphorical prison condemned as an innocent for thirteen lost years, not by the UK to whom I feel indebted, but Canada as a nation.

“To find and rekindle the passion, enthusiasm, and positivity I once had.

“And, on top of everything, to find an avenue to connect with people.”

James has reached out to former team-mates and colleagues since moving back to the UK.

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And one night sleeping in Victoria, his former team-mate Paul Peschisolido, husband of West Ham vice-chair and SunSport columnist Karren Brady, took him a blanket and some food.

Peschisolido recently brought James some new trainers and a coat for his birthday.



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