‘Fat Lads’ battling men’s mental health through football

A charity football team named ‘Battling Fat Lads’ have raised over £1000 for a men’s mental health charity in Sheffield.

The group organise regular fundraising matches and participate in tournaments in aid of Andy’s Man Club, a charity set up to get men talking.

On Sunday the team took on RvB Hillsborough at Parkwood Academy Sports Centre. The Battling Fat Lads suffered a 3-2 defeat but raised over £200 on the day to add to their growing total for 2019.

While playing most of their games in Sheffield, the team are based in West Yorkshire and their efforts have seen them nominated for best sporting based organisation in the My Mirfield business awards.

Battling Fat Lads play in fluorescent shirts in a bid to stand out

Captain Phil Russell is a registered nurse and decided to use sport to raise awareness of a problem he sees on a daily basis.

He said: “A lot of men bottle things up suffering from mental health problems. It’s nice to get together, a lot of troubles can be sorted out by just talking about it.”

Andy’s Man Club have 18 support groups around the country and are the creators of the slogan “It’s okay to talk”. The organisation previously stated they want to halve the male suicide rate.

Carlos McKeown, who runs the Sheffield branch of the charity, said sport and exercising in general can be an effective coping mechanism for many people.

Carlos McKeown runs the Sheffield Branch of Andy’s Man Club

In a bid to stand out and spread their message, Battling Fat Lads play in a mixture of bright, fluorescent colours. Chairman Simon Watts says the kit helps to raise their profile.

He said: “It gets people talking and it gets us recognised and it’s a talking point for everybody.

“When people start talking about your brightly coloured shirts you can move on to talking to them about what you’re doing and the money you’re raising so it’s a good way of engaging people.”

The team raises money through sponsorship and charging players to participate and Phil said social media has been a powerful tool for raising awareness.

He said: “Social media is a beautiful thing. Everything good that’s happened to us as a team has come through social media.

“They say you shouldn’t talk to strangers but the best thing I’ve ever done has happened by talking to strangers. This game wouldn’t be happening if we hadn’t had a chat on social media.”

The team train every Monday night in a relaxed environment, offering a safe space for men to get together, play football and talk about any problems.

While the team’s on the pitch efforts might be a subsidiary, their fundraising will go a long way to helping raise awareness of an important cause.