Football for armed forces veterans in hubs at Markethill and Portadown aim to give ‘isolation’ the red card

UK armed forces veterans can now avail of free football sessions - a six week walking football project in Markethill.

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 1:38 pm

The ‘‘Onside’ Programme is due to kick off in Markethill and deliverted by the Ely Centre.

The Ely Centre is a Registered Charity specialising in the provision of multi-disciplinary support services for civilians, security force personnel and their families, who have experienced bereavement and injury as a result of the ‘Troubles’.

The Onside Project will be delivering walking football sessions followed by lunch and short health awareness talks in Markethill.

‘Onside’ Programme set to kick off in Markethill. There will be free football sessions for veterans - all delivered by the Ely Centre.

Veterans will be put through their paces during coached walking football sessions, however the football element of the programme comes secondary to the physical and social aspects of providing a platform for people with shared experiences to come together.

The Onside Project, funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Trust (AFCT) Positive Pathways Programme, made its debut in Portadown last week with plans to establish additional hubs across NI.

Project Co-Ordinator, Christine Spence is delighted with the response to the Portadown hub and looking forward to seeing it develop.

“For veterans who have seen at first-hand the benefits of working together in a team in their professional lives, I believe football is a fantastic vehicle to help them tackle both physical and mental health issues and give social isolation the red card.

“First and foremost, the sessions are great fun. There is healthy competition but the laughter was the most pleasing aspect of the Portadown session.

“The sessions are very inclusive and as it’s walking football it is suitable for people with a wide range of fitness levels.

“In addition to the walking football we will be working to raise awareness of health issues in order to increase the overall health and well-being of everyone who takes part.”

One veteran said the project has the power to give participants a real boost, both physically and mentally. “I’m no George Best but I’m so glad I came along. I couldn’t believe how many miles I’d covered during the walking football coaching session and I felt great afterwards.

“These football sessions give us the chance to come together, firstly to meet others and have fun and secondly they are a vehicle for us to learn new skills to help us in our private lives.

“I would have no hesitation in recommending the Onside Project and I would encourage other veterans to become involved. They really have the power to be life-changing.”

If you are interested in taking part in the Markethill hub contact Christine Spence on 07749476720 or email [email protected] for further information.





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