Members of a new five-a-side football league have spoken out about the benefits it’s having on their physical and mental wellbeing.Advertisement
Fit Football kicked off in September at PlayFootball Preston, Tulketh Community Sports College in Ingol. The league currently consists of six teams who play weekly league fixtures every Wednesday evening from 6pm to 9pm.
Created by Prestonians Paul Mountford and Jon Atkinson, Fit Football aims to create a social environment where men can lose weight through the love of game.
Blog Preston spoke to two of the players about the changes they have experienced since joining the league.
Lee Mangan is a civil servant and dad. He said: “There is a massive forgotten generation of men out there who have been sidelined. Circumstances and commitments can and often do dictate, and after a while you become accepting of the fact you won’t play football. You just fall back on past memories and can slip into a decline both physically and mentally.
“Football is a release for me. I would say I’m very mild mannered off the pitch, but on it I can release aggression in a positive way and for some that’s a type of therapy.
“It’s a platform where you can interact with others on a regular basis and have a release from work, kids, commitments – and be yourself for that one or two hours a week. I’m not Mango the civil servant, Mango the carer, Mango the dad, etc. I’m just Mango the fella that can run around like a Jack Russell, and I have a role in a team and I only focus on that. Sounds daft I know but it’s invaluable.
“The lads in my team have gelled well. It’s not easy building friendships when you’re older, but we all seem to have clicked and I’m seeing confidence levels grow in people. I’ve not met all the lads but I’ve watched a couple of games and seen great teamwork and encouragement.
“I’m passionate about mental health, male suicide prevention and anything surrounding this subject, and the scope Fit Football has to help is fantastic. Every week now I have those little butterflies knowing I’m playing competitively, and I can’t wait for Wednesday evening. Imagine if I had depression and Fit Football was the one thing I could focus on, for myself and being part of a team, and not wanting to let others down. This could be the difference between a light and very dark place.”
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Peter Peake is a primary school teacher and dad to a six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.
He said: “I decided to change a few things in my life over the summer holidays as I wanted to be a fitter husband and dad. I knew it would also bring benefits to my mental wellbeing and for work as well, so I joined Slimming World in September.
“Then my wife saw a post on Blog Preston about Fit Football so she sent it to me. I loved playing football with my mates when I was younger, but I am now 37 so thought my days of playing were long gone, especially with being unfit and overweight. It had also become harder to play with friends, as a lot had families or other commitments.
“I liked what I read about Fit Football, and Paul was amazing when I messaged him about it. I soon realised it was an inclusive, supportive scheme for everyone no matter what age, size or skill set.
“I remember playing football with friends in my 20s and we could be quite harsh with each other if someone made a mistake, but Fit Football is just about the love of the game and using it to get fit so everyone is great with each other.
“I go to training on Saturdays and have been chosen to be a captain. I’ve made a whole bunch of new friends and look forward to every session.
“Doing this alongside Slimming World has completely changed my life. As a Type 2 diabetic, my blood sugar levels were out of control over the summer so I thought I’d end up on tablets or insulin, but they are now back down to virtually normal so I am absolutely ecstatic about that.
“I’m much fitter and happier, and I have lost just over a stone and a half since I started. I’ve also just been announced as my Slimming World group’s Mr Sleek 2018.
“Paul puts everything in to Fit Football and goes above and beyond to support everyone. It’s growing all the time and more and more people are wanting to start. It is an amazing scheme and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to play football, get fit and meet new friends in an environment that is friendly, non-judgmental and caring.”
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Find out more about the league on the Fit Football website.
What do you think about Lee and Peter’s stories? Would you join Fit Football? Let us know in the comments below.