Fledgling Chapelhall FC are boosting players’ mental health in county village

Chapelhall FC will kick their first league ball during the summer, having been borne of a hunger for the game in the village but, more importantly, to help struggling players with their mental health battles.

Pharmacist Mos Raza says players have expressed their gratitude to him and fellow coaches Ryan Bowes and Pearse Kelly for starting the club.

A desire for football in the village was exemplified when more than 200 people turned up to watch their first game, but they currently face a battle with North Lanarkshire Council to establish a proper base for games.

Mos is assistant to boss Ryan Bowes, with Pearse Kelly in as head coach of the club, which is not associated with the previous amateur side in the village.

Raza, 28, said: “We’re a completely separate entity to Chapelhall AFC, but we were formed on the basis that the previous team used to garner a lot of support from the locals and that’s why we thought we would bring football back to the village.

“Another reason why we’re doing it is the mental health side of things as well.

“I’m a pharmacist and I’ve seen a lot of patients who have suffered from mental health over the course of the last couple of years.

“I felt that it was a good opportunity for us to tap into this, with the passion that the three of us have for football as well, so I think we’re doing this the right way.

“The way that we run the club is so transparent. The boys know everything and they can almost have a say, or a vote if you like, on everything that happens.

“One of the main things is that it’s so good to see the boys messaging us separately and saying ‘I was in a really bad place before I knew about your team and now I feel like my life’s worth living’ or ‘I enjoy looking forward to Wednesdays and Sundays with the team’, or things like that.”

Raza added: “In our first ever home game we had over 220 come and watch, and that’s never happened before, as far as we’re aware.

Defender Matthew Monteith following a game for Chapelhall
Defender Matthew Monteith following a game for Chapelhall

“In Sunday League football, in your first ever home game, you do not usually get 220-plus people coming to watch – that just doesn’t happen.

“In our first away game we had maybe 50 or 70 people come along, and when we won, the scenes were absolutely crazy.

“That’s why we started it, why we do it.”

The focus before competitive action starts in the summer is to find a suitable pitch.

MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, Neil Gray, has given his support to the team and Chapelhall hope he can assist them in their pleas to North Lanarkshire Council.

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Mos added: “The state of the pitch is shocking at the moment – ​​it’s like a swamp.

“We’re going into the Football Central Lanarkshire League, a summer league which starts in the next couple of months.

Assistant manager Mos Raza says players are enjoying playing the game
Assistant manager Mos Raza says players are enjoying playing the game

“Our pitch is at School Street in Chapelhall; it’s a public park and we’re looking to do a lease with the council, but that’s proving a bit difficult just now.

“These things take time.

“We’re in constant dialogue with Neil Gray, the MSP, who has been nothing but brilliant, has pulled out all the stops and got us meetings with people who we would never be able to contact normally.

The new club will start playing league games this summer
The new club will start playing league games this summer

“The onus is on them to help us with the pitch and that sort of thing.”

A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said: “We are working closely with Chapelhall FC to support the club as they look to develop and progress.

“We are looking to assist the club in a number of ways, including with developing their player pathway, with support from our fully qualified SFA coaching staff, and to help the club with securing pitch and training lets.

“We regularly maintain the grass pitch the club currently use for matches.

“However, there are some limitations to this site due to its location, size and on-site drainage.

“We hold regular discussions with the club and we will continue to offer them support with their future plans wherever possible.”

MSP Neil Gray is delighted with the progress the club is making.

He said: “I am really pleased to see a new football club established in Chapelhall, and I will continue to do what I can to help them, as I will for other local clubs.

“Health, fitness and wellbeing is going to be a crucial part of our recovery and sports clubs will be fundamental to that.

“It’s great to see the way they have got started and that is down to the enthusiasm and dedication of those running it.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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