Duke of Cambridge discusses mental health with football fans at pub
Oct. 11, 2019
The Duke of Cambridge told fellow football fans he is “getting too old” to play 11-aside as he joined them in a south-west London pub to cheer on the England team in their Euro 2020 qualifying game against the Czech Republic.
Arriving at the Prince Albert Pub in Battersea, along with Chelsea manager and ex-England midfielder Frank Lampard, William spoke with several men who shared their personal experiences of mental health problems and football stories.
They celebrated an early goal from Harry Kane, who scored a penalty to take England 1-0 up after barely five minutes, before the Czechs equalised just minutes later.
The visit is part of the new Heads Up campaign, a season-long initiative supported by the charities Mind, Calm, Sporting Chance and Heads Together, which aims to make people, especially men, as comfortable talking about mental health as they are talking about football.
It comes the day after World Mental Health Day, which saw the Duke of Sussex team up with singer Ed Sheeran to make an Instagram video in which the pair urged people to look out for anyone who might be “suffering in silence”.
William, president of the Football Association (FA), spoke first to former English professional football player Matt Jansen, who has openly discussed the personal mental health challenges he has faced in the past.
Jansen, 41 – who has played for Crystal Palace, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers – was involved in a serious motorcycle accident in 2002.
He suffered a brain haemorrhage and was in a coma for six days after.
Although he returned to the sport just four months after the incident, it had a lasting effect on his mental state.
Mr Jansen was forced to give up playing football, but coached Chorley FC for three years until he resigned in 2018.
He has recently written a book titled What Was, What Is And What Might Have Been and is a strong advocate of discussion about mental health problems within the sport.
Jansen said that he had discussed with the duke the importance of the Heads Up campaign and how “times had changed” since both he and Lampard played together at under 21s level.
He said: “In our day the game was ruled by fear, it was ‘pull your socks up’. You were considered weak if you were struggling with X,Y and Z.
“It wasn’t accepted in those days and the prince is now trying to bring to the forefront that it’s much more accepted and you should speak out if you’re struggling.
He said that the Heads Up campaign was helping to change the way managers treated players, but added that it “wasn’t there yet”.
“It is progressing though and the prince is doing a great job,” he added.
The pair had also discussed Aston Villa’s 5-1 victory over Norwich City at the weekend.
William is an avid Aston Villa fan and was pictured at the game alongside an excited Prince George.
The pub is located less than five minutes from Thomas’s, Battersea, where six-year-old George goes to school.
“He said he should be in a good mood, but that George was in a happier mood. I said it was a good omen and that he’d have to bring him to more games,” said Jansen.
“I didn’t mention that I’ve scored a few goals against them [Aston Villa] in my time, that might not have gone down that well.”
Among the group speaking to the duke was Jack Badu, 30, who coaches Dulwich Hamlet Ladies football team and is supported by mental health charity Calm.
Mr Badu, 30, said they had chatted about getting older and playing football “for the fun of it”.
He said: “We spoke about what it’s like to get a bit older and then still how football is a place where you can still seek solace and have a slightly competitive game, but also how we’re now a bit too old to play 11-aside.
“I’m 30 but with a knee that’s about 80 and a back that’s about 72.
“He was very much agreeing that he’s getting older and his dreams of being a really good footballer are in the past, and now it’s just playing for the fun of it.
“Apparently he plays in the park 8-aside, used to be a centre midfielder, like myself, but now a centre half, because we’re getting older sadly.”
Following the discussion, both William and Lampard sat down with pints of Aspall cider and Camden Hells lager respectively, to watch the rest of the game with other supporters.
The Heads Up campaign aims to engage football players at all levels, from the elite to grassroots.
The initiative will be involved in some of the biggest moments of The FA’s season, including men’s and women’s England internationals, and will conclude at the Emirates FA Cup Final on May 23 next year.
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