Minds United FC were awarded club of the month by Middlesex FA for their growing community role in helping adults with mental health issues.
Minds United FC was started in July last year to support adults in Kensington and Chelsea, a borough without a grassroots mental health football club.
Funding from a Covid appeal from Kensington & Chelsea Foundation has helped them stay in touch with their players and grow the club despite the pandemic.
Founder, treasurer and Middlesex FA Grassroots Coach of the Year Tarik Kaidi dealt with his own issues with bipolar disorder and depression before starting the club to help others.
Kaidi said: “You can see how it helped me as a participant. I saw all the benefits from connecting with people, feeling comfortable in a place, being safe and relaxed, enjoying football, improving fitness and getting people out of the house.”
“Luckily in April the Kensington & Chelsea Foundation had a Covid appeal and they gave us £2500 so we could work from home with laptops and get people smartphones and credit to talk to their families and bicycles to meet the community’s needs.
“We set up a partnership with Kids on the Green and we’ve been running a support group. Nine people are members and it’s a social members club.
“We had to adapt our services we never used to run a social hub before this so this was really nice to be able to do.
“There’s a music studio upstairs so they’ve got an online radio station and a music studio and some of the players have been expressing themselves, playing piano, mc-ing or rapping.
“It’s just a different way for people to improve their well-being.”
The football side of the club has grown fast this year thanks to the Grenfell Project Fund which has allowed them to get more teams started.
Kaidi said: “The Grenfell Project Fund is a very big part of the reason our profile has grown, a massive part.
“Before the fund all I was able to do was run a session on a community pitch on a Saturday, a hard sand pitch open for the community and I just took over that time.
“I was doing it all alone with no support, me with this little dream, how am I going to do this?”
To secure the Grenfell Project funding prospective candidates had to present to the community who voted on how much they liked the presentations.
Originally a video was to be presented but that failed so Kaidi had to present himself.
Kaidi said: “I had to speak in front of 150 members of the community, I just had to go up out of nowhere with my anxiety and have to just freestyle on the spot and somehow I got the highest votes.”
The fund paid for a minibus, league costs and to rent a pitch on the Westway Sports Centre where they now run three sessions a week.
Further funding from Kensington and Chelsea Council will formalise the club further and make them sustainable for the future.
Kaidi said: “Part of this whole plan for expansion and adaptation is that we’re going to be able to pay our staff for the hard work they’ve been doing as volunteers its really nice for us to be able to do that and make us financially stable.”
Middlesex’s club of the month are desperate to get back to football in December though their other exploits will still be a priority.
Kaidi said: “I can’t wait to play; I damaged my foot so I don’t know if I’m going to be able to play but I’m still dying to play properly.
“Now I’m focussing on off-the pitch activities we’re starting a tennis group and we’ve been running a cycling group too.”