The lockdown kept British fans at home. So the football club went to him – International

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In early March, Roger Belsen was ready. For months, he and his wife Gloria planned a trip along their south coast from their home in Plymouth EnglandTo Southampton, where they will board a cruise ship for a trip to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

In the blink of an eye, everything around was obscured, Balsden recalls. With the spread of CoronavirusConcerned about the risk of travel during an epidemic, the couple canceled the trip. A few weeks later, Gloria died prematurely at the age of 76. A few days later, the blockade imposed to fight the epidemic was set aside at home to 80-year-old Roger Balsden. He will be alone for the next 12 weeks. “To be honest, I was at the bottom of the well. I didn’t care for anything else. I felt like I didn’t want to continue,” he said.

Then, one day, the phone rang. At the other end of the line was a woman named Emma Potter, who identified herself as an associate of the Argill Community Trust, which was associated with a charity. Football place, Plymouth Argyle, Which Balsden has endorsed since he was a boy. The potter explained to him that his son had given him his number. Potter said he just wanted to know how Belsen was handling the situation and asking if something like this could happen. “I think we’re a community club. We try to use it as our ethos and tell people that we’re more than a football team: we’re a big family,” he said.

Once Coronavirus Kill the The uk And closed the door Stadiums And almost everything in big and small cities, the nation’s professional football clubs – know of importance to those who depend on them regularly establish a weekly spirit. Community – Looked for new ways to identify and interact with the most lonely and vulnerable fans.

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Players of Bristol rovers, Tax Portsmouth I do Exeter City Food distribution and community work. Of them Bournemouth, Tax Watford I do West brom He called on weak fans to see how they were doing. He taught cooking classes and took questionnaires through Zoom; He organized correspondence friend programs, exercise classes and online parties. The work a club did was called a club director. loneliness, And as he took office, he began working to find fans who might have been left behind.

Surprise was generated by presidents and coaches. Former players and current players visited without warning. Some fans received iPads with instructions on how to use them to watch games or call family. Others received leaflets from the hands of club officials.

Even today, as the epidemic progresses, so do community efforts. In December, the players Doncaster rovers He spent a day giving away Christmas baskets to dozens of fans who still couldn’t leave.

“This is the softest side of football. Make them feel that they are not alone. Show that there is someone who cares about them. It’s easier when you’re part of a football club, because sports bring people together There is a way. ”Commented Plymouth Argyle chairman Simon Hallett, who called on dozens of fans to identify the institution as weak or lonely.

A number of efforts have been partners between football clubs and their nonprofit arms. These foundations and institutions are usually registered as separate organizations, but they still share a union and resources (facilities, names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers) with clubs. At a time when fans can trust their local football club more than the national government, these relationships – and a strict local sense of trust and responsibility – are important.

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“Our football club has been here longer than National Health Service (NHS). They have been here longer than many local hospitals. They exist in many communities from the Victorian era and are a reliable part of the social fabric of community and life in those places, “said Adrian Bradley, director of health and wellness at the English Football League Trust (organization of the English Football League) .), Which oversees football club charities at various levels of the league structure.

According to Balsden, the first call she received from Potter was like a “ray of sunshine”, and during the weeks and months that followed, she called him or went to visit him at some other time. With the help of the football club, Argal Community Trust conducted a phone call with head coach Kevin Nensivel, with whom Balsden discussed the team’s performance.

Effort Community workIs part of the program mental health – symbolizes a wider collective awareness across the UK loneliness of the population. Experts said the problem is particularly between adult men and the elderly, but the discussion around it has grown in recent years – to reduce the stigma associated with talking about mental health and by a series of documentaries and television campaigns The efforts have helped. Proof of issue.

The epidemic has increased anxiety. A study released in June by the Office for National Statistics, a UK parliamentary institution responsible for collecting and publishing population, economic and social data, found that 2.6 million adults felt “often” or “always” gave information. , While 7.4 million adults said they had felt lonely in the past seven days.

For Northampton Town Club manager Keith Curl, dealing with the problem meant getting phone numbers of potentially weak fans once the blockade began and two or three of them calling in a day in the middle of last year . “The best thing was that the conversation was natural – there were no directions. We introduced ourselves and then we just talked, about golf. Sometimes, what someone had planned at home was that person. About that job. Anything that involves people and gives them a bit of normalcy and an understanding that we’re all in the same boat, “said Curl.

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Since March, clubs and their staff in the main divisions of English football have distributed more than 643,000 basic food baskets to vulnerable members of communities, according to the EFL Trust, along with 29,000 items of personal protective equipment and more than 5,200 prescriptions. Are also given. Approximately 250,000 phone calls are required to and from community members, which have been recorded by EFL Trust teams, in addition to several letters. These figures do not include work Premier League (English Premier League), Whose teams have developed their own initiative to deal with loneliness.

In October, after nearly six months without leaving home, Balsden was invited by the Argyle Community Trust to attend a breakfast that was being offered to fans. There, he talked about everything about Argyle, the team he first saw more than seven decades ago, when his father and uncle placed him – just five years old – on a high fence. But, so that they can see thousands of people. Long fans that were under him. “It made me think differently about the world.”

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Sarah Gracie

About the author: Sarah Gracie

Sarahis a reporter covering Amazon. She previously covered tech and transportation, and she broke stories on Uber's finances, self-driving car program, and cultural crisis. Before that, she covered cybersecurity in finance. Sarah's work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Politico, and the Houston Chronicle.

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