Football is the Winner in Walton & Hersham
Those amongst you who are not football fans may be feeling rather depressed at the thought that over the next month the media will be dominated by football with up to four live matches shown each day not to mention endless analysis and replays. Surely there are more important things going on in the world?
However, for football fans, this is our opportunity for total immersion in the ‘beautiful game’, that time when rare moments will unite a nation in shared emotion, be it joy or despair. Some may say that football is divisive, and it certainly can excite rivalries and even violence between total strangers, but equally there is a solidarity and unity amongst football fans that can give faith in the vibrancy of our community.
Charitable organisations, Walton Charity included, will always focus on the good that can be extracted, and supporting those in society who can deliver it to those most in need. The recognition that football can bring together people and communities has formed a key part of our activities over the past few years. The game has an extraordinary breadth and depth of penetration for good in society at all levels.
Partisan national support comes to a head for the lucky 32 nations taking part in the World Cup, yet that doesn’t deter the rest of the world participating as spellbound admirers of the world’s greatest players. Those players even unite nations at the highest political level. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool and Egypt’s top striker, polled one million votes in the Egyptian Presidential election despite his name not appearing on the ballot paper!
At a local level the game also has the power to motivate and unite. This year I have witnessed how a whole City can be reinvigorated. Coventry City FC, my home town club, were promoted for the first time in 51 years following a seemingly interminable decline from the Premier League to the fourth tier of the Football League. 38,000 citizens, about 11% of the city’s population, travelled to Wembley Stadium to cheer them to success. It is hoped that this may provide the impetus for the city’s return to the social and economic prosperity of the 1960’s and 970’s.
At a local level the FA People’s Cup (www.thefa.com/competitions/the-fa-peoples-cup/about) is a wonderful example of football contributing to the health of smaller communities but on a national scale. 48,000 people of all ages, genders, abilities and disabilities participated this year. Walking football for the over 50’s is thriving. Tom Charlton (71), the younger brother of England’s World Cup winners, Bobby (80) and Jackie (83), was picked to play for England Over 60s, which shows that it is never too late, even when competing against depressingly talented siblings. Football is no longer just a game for young, fit, men and women.
Walton Charity operates in our own very local community, and football has an important part to play. Out of our total charitable contribution of £300,000 pa we support three outstanding football initiatives. They are small scale but growing and allow those who participate to improve their personal health and engage in the community at a time when isolation and exclusion is increasingly recognised as affecting all ages and genders, not just the elderly.
The Mental Health Recovery Football programme brings together adults recovering from serious challenges who, following a period of professional coaching, are now looking to enter two teams in the Surrey Community Seven-a-Side League. This expanding project shows the ability of football to re-introduce structure and self-esteem into their lives.
The KT1-2 Football Project targets children and young people of all genders aiming to improve their football skills and demonstrate behaviours which will allow them to develop as individuals and team players.
Last but not least, the Football Referee Training Course leads to nationally recognised referee qualifications and additionally gives young people direct experience of managing people, conflict, and decision making. This builds self-confidence and provides material for a CV that is attractive to employers.
So as you settle down to a month of relentless World Cup coverage just remember that it lasts for just four weeks every four years, whereas Walton Charity has been an active part of your community for over 800 years and continues to support those who need it most.
Now where’s that remote control….
Steve Wood Trustee - Walton on Thames Charity