• Sam Jones


Back in 2018, cousins Matthew Legg and Ian McKenzie founded FC Not Alone, one of the world’s first mental health football teams.

The team was founded when Matthew was going through mental health issues of his own and found an escape by playing football with his cousin Ian.

Matthew spoke to the BBC in December, revealing "there were times when I thought I was near giving up in my fight to recover.”

Unfortunately, it is common for young men to go through such problems, with suicide being the biggest killer for men under the age of 45.

Matthew found that football helped him through his tough time though and together with his cousin Ian, FC Not Alone was born.

"Football was massive. I had stopped playing out of shame, lack of energy and embarrassment,” he said to the BBC.

The team started with a tournament and has gone from strength to strength since.

But with these humble beginnings, McKenzie and Legg are looking to grow and help as many people as possible, especially after the last year has been such a hard time for many.

I recently spoke to Ian Mckenzie, to talk about what FC Not Alone had planned for the future and to see what their take on current affairs are.

“In the last year we have not had much to say.

“It has been a time where people will take more consideration for their mental health. But there is a lot of noise on social media and I would like to provide help.

“This year with help of our partner Adidas we will be doing regular drop-in football coaching sessions. These sessions will be designed for everyone with no particular skill level of football needed.

“We connect people through football, but I think as an organization I've always really loved the physical side of bringing people together through FC Not Alone, and that's what made us so passionate about the project,” said McKenzie.

However, with COVID-19 hitting the UK last year, times have been tough at the club.

“We started with the tournament and we love bringing people together and trying to use football in in that way.

“But over the last year or so, it has been quite hard for us to really have a voice because there's a lot of noise and unfortunately our reality is only what is going on online at the moment,” revealed McKenzie.

We did a big football quiz and that went really well, however we realised with so much going in the world we should park the project until things improved,” he said.

As the vaccine roll-out and lockdown continues though, FC Not Alone have looked forward to the future where they are hoping to help professional football players as well as your average man.

“A big focus area for us going forward will be trying to work with academies to help with Mental Health training for coaches to help the young players and the pressure that is on them.

“Obviously, that pressure will never change on these young lads but there must be a way to try and manage that pressure.

“But we will also try and help coaches to have more tools to be able to you know spot warning signs amongst their players and to be able to help them, that's a large focus area for us.

As seems to be the case these days, McKenzie also recognizes the need for a digital resource and is looking to bring that through insightful interviews with people who have been involved in football in some way.

“We're creating our website to be a place where you can get relatable advice about managing mental health,” he revealed.

“Hopefully we can create materials and content that is useful enough to help people manage their mental health before they get to a crisis point.

“And to make people receptive of reading about mental health through the guise of a football club. Our content is already a lot more relatable to guys as it comes from a football perspective.

“Football is traditionally seen as something that’s quite alpha or macho, if one of the football lads are talking about depression, then it is somewhat easier to relate to. On top of that if the football lads are talking about their depression, then it is somewhat easier to relate to.” said McKenzie.

Using football to tackle an issue such as mental health is a great idea for the modern world where many males feel too insecure to talk about their feelings.

Normalising mental health issues is something they are striving for and is something that could make a real impact long term.

The fact they are taking the leap and are trying to make a difference in the professional game as well is inspiring and shows the fact everyone has issues, which could normalize the issues for those experiencing them.

Negative Mental Health is a serious issue that is rife in the UK and more teams like FC Not Alone across the country could be the answer for many.

If you need help with any of the issues raised, call one of these numbers:

Samaritans - 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

Mind - 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)