Gruelling 12-hour football match raises money for men’s mental health charity

The ball flew past the hapless goalkeeper for the third time in the opening 30 minutes to make it 3-0. “Lads, keep your heads,” one player shouted. “There is still another 11-and-a-half hours to go… we can pull this back.”

The call rang out throughout Stockport Powerleague on a sunny April Sunday morning as Joe Farrell and his football group raised money and awareness for men’s mental health with a 12-hour football match.

Throughout the United Kingdom, many men struggle with their mental health, with the male suicide rate in 2022 at 16.4 per 100,000, according to the latest data from Statista Research Department.

The findings from their research displayed the worrying trend of a rise in male suicides.

Especially for Farrell, who has suffered his own mental health issues and so wanted to help organise an event to raise money and awareness to support men suffering.

He said: “For me, the cause meant a lot. For someone who struggled with their mental health, and I’m quite open about that. Everyone knows someone who struggles with their mental health, and I can’t stress how important it is to try and help them.”

To do this, he turned to his weekly social football group to raise funds for this cause.

First coming together in 2021 as they looked to play a casual game of football on a Monday night, the group grew and came to socialise off the pitch.

Elliot Aked, a student primary school teacher, one of the event organisers, and cousin of Farrell, settled on the idea of a 12-hour football match.

He said: “We have a really nice bunch of lads that are all lovely, and I think as well as loving football, they are really wanting the chance to do something positive, and that is really what it is all about: trying to do something positive for you and positive for your community.

“I’d seen people do charity matches before, but the 12-hour thing seemed like a fun concept.”

The pair spent two months arranging the event, meticulously planning it, getting sponsors and players, and raising money for the cause.

The six-aside match was played over 12 hours, with substitutions made every half hour to give a couple of the participants a break to recover before once again going through another long slog.

Charlie Smith, a participant, believed the game would turn into an Italian-style game of catenaccio after three hours.

He said: “We will be fighting to play in goal.”

Maybe it was the support from the crowd, the determination not to lose the match, or the pizza supplied by Rudy’s Pizza, but the game remained competitive for the 12-hour period.

The players with well-deserved pizza

Kick-off was at 9am and the first period was incredibly cagey, but with the introduction of the McGilligan brothers, Brendan and Mark, things changed rapidly with an injection of fresh energy, goals soon poured in.

Mark scored four goals in his first 10 minutes. The 21-year-old was the most prolific, as he registered almost a quarter of his team’s 184 goals, scoring 42.

He said: “What drove me to score so many? Just to hold it over you (Brendan).

“But it was great; I haven’t been given this freedom before, as my team had some great defenders like you and Joe, which meant I could do the work up top.

“I feel amazing, and as the clock ticked down, I didn’t want it to end.”

The McGilligans’ side ran out comfortable winners on a scoreline of 184 to 142, but the day was never really about who was victorious.

For the final 30 minutes of the game, it turned into a game of nine aside, as the players wanted to see the game out together. Completing this heroic, gruelling challenge.

The men gave every ounce of energy they had as the crowd counted them down to 9pm and once it was over, the majority collapsed. They couldn’t believe they had achieved this. However, there was enough energy for a celebratory pint.

Something special was achieved by a group made up of people of different backgrounds, different ages, and different experiences in life. What unified them was their desire to help raise money and awareness for a cause they all so strongly believed in. But also, football.

The money raised left the group in astonishment, as they ended the day with £2810 for the Strongmen charity along with an initial £850 for the pitch.

Aked said: “I’m so proud of the lads. I didn’t think we would actually achieve it, being honest, the way we did.

“To raise that money for a cause like this and to spread awareness for the cause.

“It means so much to me.”

The imagination goes into overdrive with the effort required to complete such a herculean task. But luckily, one of the players measured this through a heartbeat monitor and tracker.

As the match came to a close, it was beyond everyone’s belief that Brendan McGilligan had burned three times the average amount of calories it takes to run a marathon and a heart rate surpassing 180 bpm for over an hour of the match.

What was striking were the memories and bonds the group made at this event. The knowledge they have helped a cause dear to them while competing in the sport they love so much.

An emotional Farrell said: “My dad came down and played for two hours. I’d never been on the same pitch as him before. To play with him for such a good cause was a dream come true.”

All Images: Brendan McGilligan

Data: Statista Research Department

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Angela Davidson
Angela Davidson
22 May 2024 4:37 pm

Wow what a great achievement by all the lads, so very proud of Joe (my Grandson) & Elliot.

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