Duke tackles mental health issues and racism during football club visit

The Duke of Cambridge has highlighted the importance of tackling racism and improving mental health in football during a visit to a north London football club.

William said racist abuse recently directed at Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Inter Milan player Romelu Lukaku was “outrageous”.

The duke, president of the Football Association (FA), made the comment as he met with staff, coaches and fans at Hendon FC on Friday to learn about their mental health outreach activities.

The club, which plays in the Southern League Premier Division South, the seventh tier of English football, works in partnership with the Brent Early Intervention Service to provide people facing mental health challenges access to its training facilities.

A group of young people have formed Hendon FC Mental Health team and now take part in specially tailored weekly training sessions at the club.

As a match played in the background, the duke spoke with some of the young men who had benefited from the initiative.

Afterwards, Jermaine, 24, a local hospital inpatient, said there had been a “big change” in his well-being since becoming involved in the programme.

“I’ve developed a lot physically, mentally and emotionally,” he said.

“It’s made me more stable and given me more courage to succeed in what I want to do.

“It’s good to bond with new people and mix with people who are going through the same situation. It’s good to learn from people and help each other.”

Duke of Cambridge visits Hendon FC
The Duke of Cambridge during his visit to Hendon FC (Tim Whitby/PA)

Another programme participant Jahanzeb, 21, who has been diagnosed with psychosis and lives five minutes away from the club, said he used to live a more “secluded” and “closed” life.

“I was at home a lot, I didn’t want to get out of the house,” he said.

But after two years on the programme, he now feels more “active” and “social”.

He added: “I feel like I’m more part of society now, before I was a bit bed bound, lazy. It’s give me hope, motivation and confidence.”

The duke’s visit is part of efforts to promote the new Heads Up campaign, a joint initiative from the FA and the Heads Together charity, which seeks to raise awareness and encourage conversations around mental health – particularly among men.

William’s visit to Hendon also coincides with the launch of new FA guidance for football coaches and managers to help them identify and provide support to players facing mental health issues.

The duke spoke with some coaches working at the club and broached the subject of racism in football.

He acknowledged the impact such behaviour also had on mental health and vowed to help tackle the issue.

The duke noted racism was an issue both in the UK and in Europe, and was heard describing the treatment of Abraham and Lukaku as “outrageous”.

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