Playing Football in Silence #PlaytoTalk

Amongst all the chaos that the week commencing 19th April 2021 brought to the footballing world, we had the pleasure of being a part of something unique. An event to reinforce just why we love football. On a lovely sunny Tuesday in Shoreditch, FC Not Alone attended Powerleague and Street League’s #PlaytoTalk event in support of CALM.

At Powerleague Shoreditch on Tuesday 20th April, we all played half of a 40 minute football match in complete silence. The aim of this was to signify the many people who suffer in silence with their mental health. The match demonstrated how difficult it is to operate with your companions without one of life’s key components for enjoyment: communication.

Three matches ensued which proved to be an uncomfortable watch, since the only sounds that were heard were that of the the referee’s whistle and the Overground train service. The three teams were supported by ex-Arsenal and Aston Villa legend Paul Merson (who won’t be going in goal again any time soon after taking a hit to the index-finger) and rapper Big Zuu.

Powerleague has partnered with Street Soccer London and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) with its Play to Talk campaign

Since FC Not Alone’s inception in 2018, we have always been big supporters of CALM’s work: “The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide. Every week 125 people in the UK take their own lives. And 75% of all UK suicides are male. CALM exists to change this. Join the campaign to take a stand against suicide.”

FC Not Alone is always adapting where and how we believe we can help within the mental health space. We are forever trying to raise awareness but even more so trying to create safe footballing spaces for people of all walks of life to enjoy.

However, we will continue to work with CALM and will keep highlighting the importance of their services as they are able to be there at a point of crisis for those who are really struggling with their mental health.

Just to highlight again what CALM do:

Frontline services
Anyone can hit crisis point. We run a free and confidential helpline and webchat – 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems. We support those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP).

Together we’ll help our parents, siblings, partners, friends and colleagues. We spread our message and facilitate, universities, pubs, clubs and prisons across the country – so that people feel empowered to share their experiences and get the help they need before they reach the point of crisis.

Everyone has a part to play. We campaign with media partners, brands and ambassadors to spread awareness of suicide and its devastating impact with campaigns like #Project84, #DontBottleItUp and The Best Man Project. We challenge boring male stereotypes and encourage positive behavioural change and help-seeking behaviour, using cultural touch points like art, music, sport and comedy.”

Playing in the match itself was strange. Both FC Not Alone sides remarked how the experience was almost surreal, and even awkward. The very nature of 5-a-side football constitutes playing in tight spaces where points of possession and phases of play are fleeting and intense; where a ‘man-on’ shout is especially valued.

Not only was the physical and technical aspect of playing silently difficult, but the lack of encouragement and praise created an environment which seemed devoid of shared emotion – the vital factor which ultimately leads to tragic circumstances when suffering with mental health issues.

This was reflected in the huge contrast apparent when the second half of the match kicked off, finally granting permission to express ourselves vocally again. Laughter, shouting and football related instructions echoed under the Shoreditch High Street rail bridge once more.

We had the pleasure of inviting MOTDx down to the event to provide greater exposure to the amazing event and to raise the importance of communication to a wider audience, in the hope that it helps as many people as possible.

We’d like to thank all participants involved and Powerleague in particular for inviting us down. It truly was a great day and we’re sure it’s the start of something special going forward.