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.”
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