AFC Oldsmiths joined the SAL in 2012 looking for a better standard of football and organisation. According to Chairman and 1st Team Manager Luis Mackness, they found what they were looking for and they are now determined to put something back. To that end the club has teamed up with the award-winning charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) with whom they have developed the CALM Football Collective (CFC) and they are keen to spread the word.
CALM is dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. In 2015, 75% of all UK suicides were male and, dealing as SAL clubs do with exactly this demographic, the League and its members are uniquely positions to help. It may also help reinvent the SAL social tradition for the 21st century.
One of my big aims since becoming Chairman of the club was to also work with a men’s mental health charity. This has now come to fruition in the shape of CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably). My proposal to them was that Oldsmiths could be a ready-made tool to help with their message. On the surface we do something ‘manly’ or ‘laddy’, week in week out competing on a patch of grass in London but we’re trying to be a bit more. I’ve found that players have been open in discussing issues. This could be regarding friendships, relationships, work life, how much they think they drink and many more. So by associating ourselves to institutions that recognise that ‘men’ need to be more open and not be afraid of discussing things, the hope is that players (current and new) know they don’t have to be afraid of talking about things.
Our code of conduct will reflect all the commitments the FA’s COC stipulates but I’m asking our players to be socially conscious too. We support FBB on our kits, I wear a captain’s armband that is a pride flag to support the homosexual community in football and soon we’ll be the founding team of CALM’s CALM Football Collective. These are simply badges, metaphorical and literal, that show people that we play football and that basically, we’re not idiots. It is in no way compulsory for any of our boys to partake in any effort we make with these charities but we will give them the chance to.
The CFC is a scheme we have devised with the CEO of CALM that will comprise of some apparel emblazoned with a specific mission statement that teams can apply for. The mission statement will succinctly state that the wearer is aware of the struggle men can have with mental health and that it doesn’t have to be hidden or ignored. If it helps one person come to terms with something they are struggling with or prevents someone sliding down a difficult path, then it’s worked. But this definitely affects many people. There is no other commitment. People that agree with the notion just have to buy whatever they want from the range and wear it when they want. At first we are going to start with some training t-shirts, bibs and hopefully a badge we can stitch on to kits if clubs wish to join.
One of my responsibilities is to get in touch with clubs to see if this would be of any interest. I have discussed it with one or two that I know well but it occurred to me that this is something the league may want to be a part of. It would be great if the SAL family could embrace a project like this, to help set the SAL apart from other types of football.