A group of Edinburgh Street Soccer players are tackling the stigma of mental health by competing in a competitive seven-a-side league across Scotland that aims to improve services and support.
The Scottish Mental Health and Wellbeing League has been running since 2014, with the support of the Scottish FA. Their vision is to support individuals on their mental health journey through lived experience and be part of tackling the stigma associated with mental ill health.
Robbie Wood, Programme Co-ordinator for Street Soccer’s Edinburgh programmes, highlighted the impact the league is having on players.
“It’s fantastic for our players to get the opportunity to compete alongside some of the prominent community trusts across the country and get the chance to play at some great venues. We joined for the season starting in September 2020 and have continued to feel the benefits since.”
The league is structured in to two divisions, with seven-a-side tournaments taking place every month at a different venue. Players have had the chance to play at Broadwood Stadium, Ravenscraig, McDairmid Park and Gussie Park in recent months.
The league runs from February until June and then August until December, with each team entering a squad that meet a criteria of ‘receiving support for mental ill-health’.
The group have participated in a number of activities this year, with trips to Carlisle and Liverpool having also been highlights of recent months. A number of players also signed up to support Street Soccer at the Edinburgh Half Marathon in May too.
Robbie believes that having the chance to engage with other organisations is important, whilst competing in new environments allows the players a greater chance of building relationships.
“We have male and female players who have been in the team since we first entered and the feedback we receive is really positive. With our own matchday’s up and running in Portobello, its great to gain some of these connections with other organisations and find out where we can support one another.”
One player, who has been part of the Street Soccer squad for the most recent season, highlighted his pride of being part of the team.
“Street Soccer Scotland has helped me in ways that I could never put into words. I have real love for football because of the amazing people I have the pleasure of sharing a pitch with. Representing Street Soccer within the Scottish Mental Health and Wellbeing League is one of the proudest moments in my life. I want to make every moment count and continue to do myself and my team-mates proud.”
All of Street Soccer’s programmes have access to mental health support. Whether that be one to one or by providing a safe space to chat to our staff, who have lived experience. All sessions are free of cost and require no previous football experience.