Last weekend we made our way down to the FC Not Alone x CALM football tournament taking place to promote mental health within football. We started off the day in Group F, and the boys were eager to strut their stuff on this overcast Saturday morning.
Understanding the tournament was organised around positive mental health, Captain Ellis Gilbert gave an inspiring, yet calming pre-match speech as the lads stepped out on Islington’s infamous Market Road 4G astro turf. The first three games flew by, grinding out three 1-0 wins. Feeling like luck was on our side we faced our group rivals… Team name: Slight Edge.
The team’s ‘slight edge’ consisted of Liverpool FC’s number 24, 19 year old Rhian Brewster. With over 20 goals for England’s U18 side, and this year’s Champion League’s medal, we were ready to show him what life was like in the Ryman South Youth League.
The game consisted of a lot of chasing the ball, with small spells of brilliance (emphasis on the small) by BSMNT FC. With Rhian Brewster taking up a wide position, sizing me up, and deciding he’s got what it takes to go round former Carshalton captain and centre back. No chance mate. After a few meaningless step overs, I came through with the UK11 Puma King to dispossess the champions league medal holder, placing him firmly in my back pocket. Our goalkeeper Bradley Hill saw most of the action, as we lost the game 3-0. But when Rhian takes the ball round Germany’s centre back to score the winning goal in the world cup final, I’ll be able to say to the kids, that he couldn’t do that to me!
Advancing through the group stage, to beat last year’s champions London Gorillas on penalties, we were then knocked out in the quarterfinals. Slight Edge went onto win the tournament. The day was thoroughly enjoyed by all and we thank FC Not Alone for inviting us.
We spoke with Founder, Ian Mckenzie, after the tournament and asked him a few questions about what FC Not Alone is, and what it means to him;
” My name is Ian McKenzie and I am the co-founder of FC Not Alone, which I set up with my cousin after he was suffering form depression. We were inspired by the charity CALM, who ran a campaign called Project 84. The campaign led with 84 male statues on top of ITV’s broadcasting station, with the aim of representing the 84 people who take their lives due to suffering from poor mental health suffering each week in the UK.
Having had that initial experience with my cousin was very difficult to deal with, and luckily he was given the care and attention he needed. During the time he was struggling, we managed to get him to play football. It was a way of getting him out of his slump, and after the very first session, he told me it was the best experience that he had in the last 5 months.
Once he made a full recovery, we were inspired to give back. Having being fortunate with family, and having the resources available he was able to get out of his situation, we wanted to allow people to understand and help themselves, but also be aware of the situation which was affecting people throughout the country.
This our 2nd year running the FC Not Alone tournament. Last year we had 24 teams and this year we have 36 teams. We want to make a positive change through football – for me personally, football has had a huge impact on my life from my day to day to the things I enjoy, to the friends I know. When I was younger it was quite stressful for me to even enjoy sports. I was shy, and I want the younger audience to try and get involved. Amongst men, football plays a huge role in conversation in the UK, so our aim is for conversations around mental health, to be intwined with football, allowing for greater awareness around mental health, and creating a more comfortable environment to talk about any problems or issues.
I wanted to create something which was just something that people came back to. We had our first tournament and we received a tremendous amount of support, giving us the inspiration to move forward with it. It was really difficult last year – it was always hard to build to something especially with a strong vision. We want to convey the message of change through the brand. Providing them with the tools and the push to go out and create change through sport.”
To learn more about FC Not Alone’s program and to donate click the link here.