I’m told this summer was quite a big deal for the football world, something about coming home?! Despite the disappointment elsewhere, we’re here to celebrate the power of football, and to hear from Giancarlo Gaglione about the success of this year’s Lan the Baron World Cup.
For 33 years, the 5th August has been a special date for our family: the birthday of my youngest brother, Lanfranco. But in 2012 Lanfranco took his own life and each year that followed, that date was filled with sadness. But this year was different. This year, 5th August marked the date of our 7th annual Lan the Baron World Cup – the football tournament we set up in Lanfranco’s name to raise funds for CALM and awareness around mental health and depression. It was a day of positivity, success and darn good football! What better way to celebrate Lanfranco’s life?!
Nearly 100 footballers descended to the red part of North London at the Arsenal Hub to compete in 44 games to decide who would be this years World Cup winner. As the doors opened, a plethora of colours marched through the turnstiles, as we welcomed 12 different teams representing their respective countries. From Italy to China, Brazil to France, Ghana to Uruguay, all parts of the globe were represented in the competition.
The aim of the tournament is to use football as the vehicle to deliver messages and awareness around CALM and mental health. With so many players we realised that our footballers could be the ambassadors we needed to spread the word. So we scrapped the players fee to play but asked instead that the players gain sponsorship in order to play. We created a webpage for each team which explained about the work that CALM do, so that the players could share it with family, friends and colleagues. This resulted in nearly £5,000 in donations – double that of previous years, and thousands of new visitors to our website. It was Win, Win, and fantastic to get such huge support from a vast community of people who felt so strongly about the cause.
The tournament began by dividing the 12 teams into two groups for the group stages where they would play 5 matches each to try and secure a spot in the Quarter Finals. The bottom two wouldn’t go home in this tournament, they would be entered into this years Wooden Spoon tournament. As we kicked off, some teams started strong. Ireland successively won their first three games and raced ahead in Group A. The other teams in Group A Italy, Ghana, France, Japan and South Korea, were all on 3 points leaving it all to play for in their respective last two games. Meanwhile in Group B, no one could stop the mighty force of Uruguay, who were taking no prisoners and managed to win all of their group games. They weren’t scoring the most goals (that task was left for Brazil) but they were super consistent and played like a team. After three hours, 91 goals, mixed with a little blood, sweat and tears, we had our 8 finalists for the quarter finals; France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Brazil, Japan, England, Italy and Uruguay. The bottom two teams from each group entered the Wooden Spoon tournament to try and take their revenge.
The Quarter Finals were played with even more intensity as the teams fought it out for 10 minutes to try and secure their place in the semis. The losers of this contest would fall into the wooden spoon tournament and try and prolong their stay. It was France vs Brazil and England vs Uruguay in the Semi Finals, and after a hard fought contest it was left with two teams who started in the same group and performed the best on the day to battle it out for this years title. The bookies would have bet on Brazil, given the country’s rich history in this tournament and collection of legendary players. And the bookies would have been right with Brazil trumping Uruguay 4-2 To take this years trophy.
As the dust settled on the Arsenal pitch, it provided a moment to pause and talk about why we started on this journey in the first place; to get men together, raise awareness around mental health and suicide, and try to remove the stigma. “They think it’s all over… it isn’t yet!” We’ll be back next year delivering the same message, stronger and more powerful than ever!
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