FC Not Alone: Meet one of the world’s first mental health football clubs (By James Cronin – BBC Sport)

The core value of FC Not Alone is to raise awareness about mental health and the wellbeing of those involved
When Matthew Legg deferred his university studies because of depression, a phone call with his cousin Ian McKenzie helped to change his life.

Inspired by the power of football to engage people emotionally, the two cousins founded FC Not Alone, one of the world’s first mental health football clubs.

Their journey so far has taken them from five-a-side tournaments to meeting royalty at Wembley, all part of their mission to get more men talking about their mental health through football.

FC Not Alone designed their own kit, which displays the logo of the mental health charity CALM

As Legg, 23, looks back on his most difficult days, he remembers how “there were times when I thought I was near giving up in my fight to recover”.

This is not uncommon for young men. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Every week, 125 people in the UK take their own lives, 75% of whom are male.

Reflecting on his state of mind during that period in 2017, Matthew says football and friendship were the things that made him feel better.

“The depression was taking over every part of my psyche and life, and there were constant problems to tackle,” he said.

“Football was massive. I had stopped playing out of shame, lack of energy and embarrassment.

“But I did play with Ian, and it showed that all was not lost. Each time I played, I gained a glimmer of hope that I could tackle this problem, and I began to enjoy it again.

“These small glimpses of enjoyment, something that had left my life for so long, were so important to inspire me to keep fighting and try to beat my depression and gave me belief that I could do so.”

Football has a growing role to play in opening up the discussion around men’s mental health, according to McKenzie, co-founder of the club.