#MHAW2017: Focus on South London Grassroots Football League

Today, as part of our celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, we feature the South London Grassroots Football League (SLGFL), a dedicated league created to use football as a way to improve the lives of people with mental health problems.

The South London Grassroots Football League was formed in 2010 by NHS Mental Health Professionals keen to allow their clients to play competitive football against other teams and trusts in London.  It also became a London FA affiliated league in the first season and has remained so ever since. The 9 teams involved take part in home and away fixtures throughout the season. All the teams involved are run with links to NHS trusts.

Since starting this role in September, 2016, as disability football development officer I wanted to see the football in action and meet some of the players involved so I headed down to a league fixture in March and here’s how it went…

On Friday 17th March, I visited Bethlam Royal Hospital in Bromley for the fixture of Status vs Millwall Lions to catch my first glance of the league in action. I’ve seen a lot of football across London in various leagues and formats since starting my role in September, 2016 and the standard can vary considerably, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

On a fine but breezy day I was treated to a really decent game of football. The game was competitive, end to end, tense but an all-round well-mannered affair. Millwall Lions came out 3-2 winners after holding on from late pressure from Status. A few highlights from the game for me was Status’ 2nd goal, a great piece of individual skill down the left, cut inside onto the player’s favoured right foot and struck a belter of a strike into the top corner. Keeper no chance. Away from the skills and tricks of the football on show, of which there were plenty. What was great to see was the support showed by each team for each other. My highlight was after a player blazed a good chance high and wide, which left the player frustrated at the missed chance. Almost, instantly his teammate was on him with an arm around the shoulder, which resulted in that same player later in the game scoring the goal mentioned above. Although the football was of a good standard and is the reason a lot of these players get involved the other social interaction and benefits to this type of football cannot be underestimated. It was a joy to see and be a part of and I’m really looking forward to working with the league to help them develop and grow over the next few years.

At the end of each season the league hosts a Cup Finale for the teams involved. This year the event will be held at Tooting & Mitcham Football Club, Imperial Fields, SM4 6BF on Friday 14th July 2017 and is due to be a great day for all the players and teams involved. One of the teams taking part will be the Warriors team, run by the Exercise therapy team at Springfield University Hospital. The Warriors recently returned from Birmingham having been crowned champions in the FA People’s Cup in the Disability Championship! What a fantastic achievement and you can see the match highlights here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/39773412

SLGFL are always looking for volunteers and people who can help out on the day to help run the tournament with them. If you are interested in supporting the league and getting involved then please contact Trevor Wyer (Trevor.Wyer@slam.nhs.uk) for more information and timings for the day.

Or for more general information please contact Steve McFadyen, Disability Football Development Officer, London FA - steven.mcfadyen@londonfa.com.