The Importance of Mental Health – Gary Lineker supports matchFit app

As covered in The Telegraph on Saturday 20 February 2021

Gary Lineker is sup­port­ing the Street Soccer Foundation’s new mobile app, matchFit, to help chil­dren and young people who have strug­gled over the past year.

“Sport gives you much more than any sub­ject, prob­a­bly, apart from read­ing and ba­sic arith­metic,” he in­sists. “It should be the third most im­por­tant thing on the cur­ricu­lum, af­ter English and maths.”

Gary Lineker supports the Street Soccer Foundation and its matchFit app

As a for­mer Le­ices­ter Boys’ Gram­mar School pupil who ex­celled in cricket as well as foot­ball, in which he earned 80 caps and scored 48 goals over an eight-year in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, the 60-year-old ad­mits: “You learn so much about life with team sports. You learn about win­ning, you learn about los­ing, you learn about how to get on with other peo­ple, which can be a great strength in later life.”

The for­mer England International adds: “You learn to help your team-mates. You never learn stuff like that, gen­er­ally, in school – it’s just you learn­ing dif­fer­ent sub­jects for your­self. Whereas in team sports, you re­ally gen­uinely have to think about other peo­ple who play dif­fer­ent roles.”

Al­though he has not faced the same pres­sures as par­ents hav­ing to home school, Lineker has grown in­creas­ingly con­cerned about chil­dren’s men­tal health dur­ing lock­down. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tre for Men­tal Health, more than 500,000 chil­dren un­der the age of 18 will re­quire men­tal health care due to the dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic and fam­ily pres­sures caused by the on­go­ing ef­fects of the pan­demic.

A key reason why the broad­caster is sup­port­ing the Street Soc­cer Foun­da­tion’s new match­Fit app.

Of­fer­ing a free plat­form for young peo­ple to turn to with in­for­ma­tion and guid­ance, as well as mo­ti­va­tional sup­port from sport­ing legends, the app fo­cuses on men­tal health, re­silience, mo­ti­va­tion, be­hav­iour and mind­set, us­ing mu­sic, au­dio and read­ing. It also in­cludes an in­ter­ac­tive mood tracker, to pro­vide 24/7 sup­port to those who need it the most.

“You can go back a few gen­er­a­tions to when a lot of school play­ing fields were sold off,” says Lineker. “I think it’s vi­tally im­por­tant for all sorts of is­sues, re­ally: men­tal health, phys­i­cal health and all-round well-be­ing.

“I worry about chil­dren’s men­tal health at the mo­ment – but also the men­tal health of their par­ents, hav­ing to have them at home all the time and keep­ing them in­ter­ested, stim­u­lated and en­gaged. I’m just so thank­ful that this didn’t hap­pen when my four boys were in their early years. I can’t even imag­ine how hard that would be.”

Lineker is also im­pressed by the pos­i­tive im­pact sport has had on the na­tion’s psy­che. “I think sport has played a great part in a lot of peo­ple’s men­tal health,” he says. “It’s given us some­thing to watch be­yond box sets and the news.”

Ref­er­enc­ing Manch­ester United star Mar­cus Rash­ford’s cam­paign­ing on free school meals, he also adds: “What Mar­cus has done has been in­cred­i­ble. To get gov­ern­ments to do U-turns, I’m full of ad­mi­ra­tion for him.

“The foot­ball cap­tains, through Jor­dan Hen­der­son, all got to­gether at the start of the lock­down to do their bit to raise money for NHS char­i­ties, which was also a great thing. So­cial me­dia has its down­sides, but the way a lot of play­ers have used their enor­mous plat­form has been a huge power for good.”

The matchFit app can be downloaded for free via this link: www.streetsoccerfoundation.org.uk/matchfit