By Giancarlo Gaglione
England is no stranger to losing to Germany in a World Cup, and this year’s Lan the Baron World Cup was no different, with Germany emerging victoriously 5-1 after nearly 50 games and over 100 footballers competing for the coveted title.
But how did we get here? What has playing football got to do with preventing suicide?
In 2012, Lanfranco Gaglione took his own life at the age of 26, and his passing left a massive void in the lives of his family and friends. We collectively felt an urge to do something, to make right the wrong; So on a quest we went, raising over £80,000 for CALM in the proceeding years hosting charity gigs, dinner dances, climbing mountains, cycling to the coasts and running across the UK.
Whilst we felt proud that we had raised a phenomenal amount of money, something was missing.
Whilst we felt proud that we had raised a phenomenal amount of money, something was missing. The reason me and my brother got involved with CALM was to help them grow but also to reach out to the target audience, to raise awareness of mental health and provide men with a platform to get together and talk. Born was the Lan the Baron World Cup, a 5-a-side tournament in a day that brings men together to play football whilst learning about the great work CALM does and providing a space for men to open up.
In the six years we’ve ran the event, we’ve hosted around 1,000 footballers and taken them on a journey from playing in a small local park with marked out lines and jumpers for goalposts to, in partnership with Arsenal in the Community, playing in the shadows of the Emirates Stadium.
My brother Lanfranco never shared how he was feeling. I believe if he did, if we had a culture where men felt free to share how they felt, he would be alive today.
When you hear of the imminent £196m transfer for Neymar from Barcelona to PSG, it makes you wonder what’s happened to football. Because at a grassroots level it brings strangers together, people from different backgrounds and cultures, people who don’t speak the same language all on to a pitch, kicking a ball round with a single purpose. This year I received a message from one of the new footballers taking part thanking me for hosting the event, but most importantly he opened up about how he’s been struggling with depression. How for years he’s found it difficult to talk about his emotions, the fact he feels safe to share with a stranger that he’s found it hard is the first step in overcoming that depression.
My brother Lanfranco never shared how he was feeling. I believe if he did, if we had a culture where men felt free to share how they felt, he would be alive today. Until we get to that state, we’ll keep hosting our 5-a-side football tournament and try to get footballers to start having those conversations.
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