A free weekly six-a-side football project, for veterans of the Armed Forces and Emergency Services, has launched in Hereford to encourage regular physical activity and positive mental wellbeing.
It takes place every Wednesday, from 5-6pm, at the Herefordshire FA County Ground, Widemarsh Common, and has been driven by the county FA, FirstLight Trust (FLT) and Help for Heroes.
Participants are also able to enjoy an hour’s social afterwards, with a chance to chat to like-minded people over a brew and find out about the support available from the organisations involved. The sessions have grown quickly and regularly see 20 to 25 veterans taking part.
The football sessions are currently scheduled into 2023 with organisers seeking funding to extend the project long-term.
The man behind the project for Help for Heroes is Hereford Veterans Liaison Paul Vicary, himself a veteran of 35 years’ service.
He said: “We should remember that Hereford is a discreet Garrison city and is a hub for many military veterans who want to still feel part of a team, want to meet like-minded people who can empathise, relate to each other, and have a goal to aim for.
“This initiative – which is open to all abilities and genders – provides just this, with the social activity, physical, psychological, health and wellbeing benefits.
“It’s great to see how this is already evolving, and we would welcome anyone from this community to join in. Even I’m playing – and I have two left feet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. You never know unless you give it a go.”
Dorinda Wolfe Murray, founder and CEO of FirstLight, added: “Football is a great way for veterans to come together and take part in regular physical activity as well as promoting a healthier lifestyle and positive mental wellbeing.
“There will be a great sense of camaraderie with a lot of banter and laughs along the way. It is fantastic to know that we have female veterans also taking part. This is an exciting collaboration between FirstLight Trust and Help for Heroes that will benefit veterans locally and have a tangible impact on individuals taking part.”
Herefordshire FA’s (HFA) Football Development Officer (Disability, Inclusion & Recreation), Scott Russell, was another to welcome the initiative.
He added: “This is such a great project to be involved with and to have so many Military Veterans and Blue Light Services personnel playing is incredible. My role at the HFA is to keep people engaged in sport, specifically football. The mental and physical benefits to playing football are proven to have a positive effect. Herefordshire is rich in history and active military and blue light service workforce members. So it’s important to give an opportunity for this group to meet up regularly, get active and afterwards have a chat and refreshments with like-minded people.”
To find out more about joining the weekly six-a-side football sessions or to support the initiative through funding or services, contact either Paul Vicary from Help for Heroes on: 07483044063 or Brad Tony on: 07956554697.
To get support from Help for Heroes visit www.helpforheroes.org.uk
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