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Amateur footballers who support each other to cope with bereavement or the transition from military to civilian life are to take part in a “Game of Hope” tournament this weekend.

Six teams of men who train and play together as a way of managing the trauma they have suffered in their lives will begin the “life affirming afternoon of football” by reading “stories of hope” to their team-mates, fellow competitors, friends and families.

The event is part of a “Month of Hope” in Greater Manchester that runs from World Suicide Awareness Day on 10 September and World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

It is also a part of the Shining a Light on Suicide campaign in Greater Manchester that encourages people to talk honestly and openly about suicide as a way of saving lives.

The event is being organised by GreaterSport, which works in Greater Manchester to encourage people to be more physically active, together with the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

Chief officer of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership Jon Rouse will referee some of the matches at the seven a side tournament, to be held at Curzon Ashton FC.

People who have been bereaved and military veterans are among the groups of people who are considered vulnerable to suicidal thoughts – and who benefit the most from the social interaction of playing in a football team.

Organiser Pete Carruthers, military veterans lead at GreaterSport and project lead for ‘Moving Forces’, said:

“When they leave the forces most military veterans transition to civilian life well, but a significant minority struggle and social isolation can be a big factor in that.

“Playing in a football team can be a great support and helps people to open up and share how they are feeling.

“The sense of belonging and friendship that comes from playing football helps with people’s mental health, as well as their physical health.”

The teams taking part in the tournament are:

  • Manchester City FC Military Veterans, which was founded by Pete Carruthers and has around 40 players registered
  • Curzon Ashton FC Military Veterans, which is supported by Curzon Ashton FC Community Foundation
  • Follo FC. Follo stands for For Our Lost Little Ones. The team offers support to fathers whose children have died and they recently won the national FA Grassroots Award for their work
  • Infinity Initiatives and Infinity United. These two teams are supported by Infinity Community Interest Company in Tameside, which works with people deemed to be vulnerable and having multiple needs or at risk
  • Love of Lacey. This is a team formed by the father of Lacey who died suddenly aged just seven. The team works to raise funds to provide aftercare and somewhere for bereaved parents, carers and family members to take time out after the unexpected death of a child

The format of Sunday’s event will be a sharing of personal and team stories of hope, starting at 2.30pm, followed by the tournament from 4pm-5.30pm and a reception / trophy presentation afterwards for the players and their families.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said:

“We can only imagine the dark places that people go if they have lost a child or if they suffer serious mental health problems.

“The men who play in these teams are using the power of football to have a conversation about mental health and to support each other.

“It’s a great example of how communities can work together to improve mental health across Greater Manchester.”

Jon Rouse, chief officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said:

“I’m looking forward to hearing people’s stories of hope. Just getting together for a football match in front of friends and family will be a life affirming event for some of these players.

“Everyone has a role to play in helping improve mental health and in preventing suicide.

“You don’t have to be a healthcare professional – just talking about how you feel and being open about your feelings may literally save someone’s life.”

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