Emdad Rahman: I'm currently reading a book called 'Retired' (review coming soon). It's written by Irish stand-up comedian Alan Gernon and talks about the pitfalls faced by footballers coming to the end of their careers. It's a fascinating read and splits opinion right down the middle. I met the Author at the launch of Fleet Street Sport & Media Group, which amongst many services also promotes the health, wealth and welfare of footballers and their families.
Football as a sport has a big impact on mental health and affects self-esteem, identity and many relationships. I have read a study where one in for fans claimed that football was one of the most important things in their lives. This year I had the pleasure of participating in the Sonali Othith 40 years plus veterans tournament 2016 for Dawatul Islam, who I had played for as a youth footballer. Thirty years on and it was nice playing with the boys again. Reaching 40 has served a timely reminder of just how popular football is in the community.The summer league had six teams participating and the enthusiasm all round was great to experience. It made me think about aspects of our lives which Gernon highlights in his book. Let's look at the phenomena of the retired footballer. One day the world is their oyster and then they retire, sudden or after years of service, and the world comes to a standstill. Apart from a handful, who go into TV, punditry, coaching and maybe business, many have to retrain for a new career Or find something to keep themselves ticking over. Quite a few can’t handle being out of the limelight - no selfies, adulation, autographs, invites. Some turn broke within a very short time, whilst others suffer with major social issues, marital break ups, bankruptcy, alcohol/drugs dependency, gambling, which they struggle to overcome.
Although the lives of all the veterans participating at the Sonali Othith 2016 Masters differ vastly from their professional millionaire superiors there can be parallels in what happens after these people reach a certain age when they have to step away from the level of the game they have played for so long. Most vets I know hold down a job or have business or family commitments they take care of on a daily basis. Football is a release for them which provides physical and mental stimulation. My friends and I play football at Mulberry Leisure Centre on a Friday and although WhatsApp is good it's the only time we actually get to meet physically as a group. The experience is one we look forward to with great gusto. It's a treat at the end of a hard working week and sets us up for a productive and relaxing weekend ahead. This is not unusual. The Leisure Centre has pockets of bookings, all mates getting together for a football social on a Friday night. This happens all over the city, in fact the country, continent and planet. Do you get my drift? It's not just football is it? In fact football improves life quality.
In 2010 the Mental Health Foundation said that for people with depression, “Comparative studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as medication or psychotherapy”. Football helps everyday people and helps break isolation and depression.Which brings me back to the 5 a side tournament. Poplar were worthy winners of the 2016 40 years plus showcase with Masud Miah a worthy recipient of man of the tournament. Dawatul Islam were the surprise package and raised many eyebrows to finish second. Shagor showed great character to finish in third place on the last day, and Shadwell, CAG and Ocean contributed to a successful tournament. Every player was an ambassador and each team served to remind us of how important it is to remain active at an age where many lapse into a retirement mindset.
The team at Sonali Othith for years have been at the forefront of promoting sports amongst the older generations. It keeps a section of the community active and productive. It helps people feel significant, relevant and in touch. It promotes a feel good factor which is good for overall wellbeing. Sonali Othith remains active in the field and recently also held the Friendship Cup, comprised of senior members of various UK welfare organisations, and which was won by the greater Lamakazi Welfare Association.I've spoken to Dawlath Khan and Faruque Ahmed and there's some exciting projects planned. With the interest shown I can see a walking football tournament coming soon to accommodate the interest shown. In fact such has been the demand that Sonali Othith are now in the process of setting up a similar league for the winter. Then there is also the 8 a side Masters tournament in August which should be another exciting day out. In fact Sonali Othith may go further and even arrange a cup format for 45 year olds and above. This is testament to not only the hard work of Sonali Othith but also the positive mindset of a community that looks to increasingly keep active as the years roll on.
Sonali Othith means golden past but that doesn't mean that this is a place where golden oldies reminisce the good old days. It is a platform from which participants look at the past to ignite the future.Football is a great medium to bring people together and promote an active and healthy life and I hope Sonali Othith will continue to engage with hard to reach individuals using the beautiful game to reach out and make contact. As they say, sports for all, sports for life.