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“The Beautiful Game: Sport as a Vehicle for Wellbeing” By Matt Spruce

A wonderful article highlighting the benefits of sport for mental health, social support and mind and body fitness.Capturing one man’s love of football and the role it has played in shaping him, forming bonds with military comrades, breaking down barriers in combat and surviving as a parent! Written by an inspiring friend, veteran, coach and football fan!




How have you found the last 12 months? Personally, I have found it a challenge. To move to a new house, have a baby as well as a 2 year old, leave the Army, resettle, job hunt, interviews and then start a job all under some kind of pandemic restriction has made everything a little more complex.

You may laugh but I have missed playing football..... I know, selfish and sad... but I have played since I was a child and throughout my adult life. Every posting, every new Town, 5-a-side, 7-a-side, Sunday league, non -league, for the Army Medical Services, for the Army, even on Operations around the globe .... Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen... and then there are the Exercises in Kenya, Cyprus, Uganda, Germany, New Zealand, France, and the Czech Republic....I have always had the escapism of playing the game. At every level, from having a kick about in the gym to playing at Fratton Park against the Royal Navy, the buzz and team cohesion is the same. A freedom to focus on nothing other then the game, the ball, your team, the score.

I read a quote “you will never miss “normal” until itsgone” and boy have I missed normal. Physical activity is vital for health and wellbeing, it is something I have always prided myself on. The varying degrees of lockdowns gave me the freedom to do “daily activity” which I embraced… but it wasn’t enough. I found myself getting a little more stressed and having a little less tolerance. Suffering from cabin fever and feeling guilty as I had everything and knew I missed the game. Of course, I couldn’t talk about it, even writing about it seems ridiculous, but not having that hit of passion, adrenaline, commitment and cohesion took its toll.

For many people, sport is taken for granted. It is something that exists in the background, it is seen as a bit of fun on the weekend but ultimately, not all that important, for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I struggled to process how I have managed to play football in every warzone I have deployed to, often to break barriers with locals, often to bring people together and a vehicle for leadership and cohesion. Yet here I was, in the UK, BANNED from playing.

The physical importance of sports is well known but participating in physical activities also has an incredibly beneficial effect on your happiness. This boost in happiness comes from a range of sources, both neurological and psychological.

Team sports require you to place the good of the group above your own self-interest. It might feel good to run the length of the pitch, take on every player…..It’s more likely that you’ll lose the ball to the other team. In football, how many you score doesn’t matter. All that matters is that your team wins!!

I am hoping to play for a Charity team called North Wales Dragons, they play in various charity cups but most importantly, they train every week. on a 4g pitch under flood lights, the excitement I have for turning up, meeting new people and playing the beautiful game is ridiculous..!! I am nearly 40 ..!!





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