Since the pandemic it has become more acceptable to discuss the negative impact being locked indoors has had on people’s mental health.
Billed as the “next pandemic” in some quarters, there is an increasing awareness that solitude and isolation has led to many people needing an outlet to strengthen their mental health.
One notoriously difficult group of people to engage with has traditionally been middle-aged men.
No longer at an age where they meet friends to go “clubbing” on a Saturday night, they may have fallen away from competitive sports through age or injury, and they may perhaps feel not yet old enough to join the local bowls club
This is an age group which does not easily mix with others.
Yet there is hope. An increasing number of sports are welcoming older players with a variety of enticements such as walking rugby and over 35’s football.
In this month’s Team North Yorkshire, community reporter Louise Perrin spoke to members of Malton’s Veterans Football Team to discover how they benefit from playing.
The team meet each Thursday at Malton Sports Centre to train and generally spend an hour forgetting life beyond the boundaries of the pitch.
Steve Mason, 50, is one of the founding members of the team.
He said: “It’s taken four years to get going, but now we have 33 players, when before we’d struggle.
To play in the competitive matches you have to be over 35, but Steve said all are welcome at training: “We have all ages training on a Thursday when everyone is welcome to come along. We have one guy who is 60 and just plays in charity games.
“There is a guy on one of the York teams who is 78. He was starting to struggle, but he’s just had a new knee and he’s never been better.
“If it wasn’t for football I’d just be sitting at home doing nothing.
“I appreciate just being able to get out and play. It’ s good to get out and run around the football pitch. It’s a very good confidence builder
“I get put up front, at least then I know I’ve got better player behind me,
“This year we’re playing 12 league games and 18 friendlies. Teams are spread from the Vale of York from Hull to Ilkley and all points in between.”
The team has a 3G pitch so are able to play more or less every week.
Steve said the best thing is the banter, closely followed by the team ethic.
He said: “I work on my own, I’m just a workaholic, but it keeps you connected with the community.
“When you play, you forget work, you forget any other issues
“You’re just spending time with a group of other like-minded people doing like-minded things.
Helping make friends
Gary Adamson, 37, moved to Malton in September last year after spending 21 years in the Military.
His final posting, as a Warrant Officer Second Class communications specialist. at Leconfield, has left him in a position to finally put down roots.
He had played football in the UK world master games and won gold and when he moved looked for a football team to help make friends.
He said: “The kids have lived in seven houses in ten years and we’ve not been able to establish ourselves.”
Wife Laura has taken a position as a teaching assistant at Norton Primary school and the couple's two children, Sophia , 10 and Lleyton, 7 are settling into the area.
Gary said: “The team have been very welcoming and the lads are brilliant. It has given a sense of community for the kids and Laura as well.
“It’s the little things if I’m honest, there’s always someone to turn to.
“Steve and the team have been amazing.
“I’ve played football ever since I can remember. I played for Wirral Schoolboys and the combined services team and in the F.A. Cup for Badshotley.
“If anyone is thinking of getting involved, they 100% should come down.
“Everybody is welcome. It gets you out of the house and it’s a great way to meet up, get some exercise and have some fun.
Kristian D’Rosario works as an operations manager at a transport company.
He played football professionally in Spain and Gibraltar before a series of niggling injuries forced him to retire.
Kristian began looking for a way to get back into football after his six-year-old daughter Darcy passed away after a period of ill health.
He said: “Since I moved back, it’s not been about playing competitively, it’s been about looking for enjoyment.
“It’s about showing up and having a kick about and having a laugh and taking your mind off things.
“It was all I needed at that time, to take my mind off reality.
“It was great to be able to be open and speak a bit. I didn’t have to speak about Darcy.
Sometimes you just need conversation to get by.
“It’s an outlet, you don’t need to have ability, you don’t have to be good at football.
“It’s somewhere to go and vent and take time away from reality. Just allocate that hour or so to get away and escape.
Get away from everyday life
Danny O’Dwyer, 36, lives just 200 yards from where the team practise.
A building services manager for the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, Danny spent a lot of years from the age of 16 or 17 playing every weekend.
He said: “I had two children and I stopped playing to spend time with them, which was a mistake.
“I had no outlet for my mental health and I lost confidence, I had nothing to do.
“I didn’t know anybody when I moved here in January 2020, lockdown hit when I had only played three games for the team.
“Fortunately, everybody got involved with the Facebook group and we were able to get away from everyday life.
“I looked forward to getting back. I’m still going up and playing, it clears my head.
“It’s all about networking, and everyone is really easy to get on with.
“I was probably one of the younger guys when I joined, but there is a good all-round group of ages at training, even my step-son who is 21 comes along when he can’t get a game.
“We get more games than everybody else. We play the cerebral palsy team and the U19’s team just to get a game.
“There is plenty to gain, I’ve lost weight and gained confidence.
“If anyone one is thinking of joining I’d say if it is what you love, never stop
“I regret not making that time for myself.
“As soon as I come home I’m in a good place to spend quality time with my family because I’m in a good place mentally.”
Steve said: “If you’d like to get involved, come along to Malton Sports Centre on a Thursday night or find us on Facebook - Malton Old Boys FC and if any other teams want to look us up, we’re always up for a game!”