This ‘Day of Action’ gives each of the 72 clubs in the EFL the opportunity to show how their programmes and initiatives are influencing the lives of people in their respective communities. Clubs are utilising football to make a positive impact on people’s lives through schemes focusing on health and wellbeing, education, and community outreach to name just a few.
By doing this, the EFL’s aim is to provide a national platform on which all EFL clubs can come together and show the work that they are doing daily across 72 towns and cities, and subsequently the impact this work is having. Such work is made possible by the many professional and dedicated club staff, plus the estimated £50 million that the EFL Trust and Club Community Trusts pump into key areas.
This specific ‘Coping Through Football’ project in Waltham Forest and Redbridge has grown remarkably in the 10 years in which it has been running. At the start there was only one session held at the Score Centre in Leyton. This expansion has helped to improve the confidence and self-esteem to the many that attend.
O’s manager, Omer Riza, and Community Liaison Officer, Howard Gould, were in attendance to represent Orient alongside coach, Junior Gittens. On the day, the session saw one of its best turnouts, with over 20 people coming along to spend the afternoon playing football and socialising in a friendly and fun environment.
Participants gathered in the entrance to the Sports Centre, and were eager to get out onto the 3G pitch and start to play. After the warm-up had been completed, teams were selected and a match was underway. Riza looked very much at home as he joined in with the first half, during which the passing, dribbling and movement was of a high quality.
It was the non-bibs who scored early on, but the bibs struck the post and bar in a matter of minutes and were denied on a few occasions by a keeper in inspired form. However, it was two pieces of individual quality by one player that saw the bibs comeback to take a 2-1 lead. At half-time, the players posed for a group photo with Riza whose enthusiasm and positivity throughout the event was highly infectious.
Afterwards, Riza said: “I love to come down to things like this. It’s important that us people in the sports industry come down and give our time to individuals. It’s nice to come down and see them carefree, playing, enjoying, and it’s just nice to be part of it today.”
Sonia Smith, Occupational Therapist and winner of a BAME Community Award for her work with the project, said: “Coping Through Football is a project that was developed in joint-partnership working with the London Playing Fields Foundation, who own green spaces and preserve them for the community to play sport, the Leyton Orient Trust, and the North-East London Foundation Trust which is the mental health trust.
"They came together to develop a football group for people with mental health difficulties, who currently have two adult groups in Waltham Forest, another two adult groups in Redbridge, and two young people’s groups for people aged 12-17.”
She continued: “The aim is to use football as a tool to bring people together: to reconnect with their former selves before they started developing mental health issues. Playing a team sport encourages you to use your communication skills and cognitive skills i.e. planning to create strategies within the match itself. I also support people to become involved in socially included activities which leads to them engaging in more volunteering, education, training, and employment. Quite a few of our service users are volunteering and some people are working part time.”
When asked about what it was like having the Orient manager attend the session Smith said: “We were very honoured to have him attend, and I told the group members that Omer was coming down and we’ve had the highest turnout ever. Clearly, they were highly motivated to get a chance to meet the manager and very excited to play with him. They were really focused on their football and I saw them trying their very best to show him their skills. We were very honoured to have him here and he is welcome to come anytime.”
For more information on the Coping Through Football project, please contact Sonia Smith, Occupational Therapist, Coping Through Football Project Co-ordinator, Ferguson Centre, 26 Low Hall Lane, Walthamstow E17 8BE Tel: 0300 555 1267 ext 5342 Or visit www.copingthroughfootball.org