Why was former England star at Norfolk football event?

Former England defender Ashley Cole visited the FDC in Bowthorpe, Norwich, to talk about the importance of mental health.

Former England defender Ashley Cole visited the FDC in Bowthorpe, Norwich, to talk about the importance of mental health. - Credit: Adam Kemp

England legend Ashley Cole has played in some of the world's biggest matches.

But it was at the FDC in Bowthorpe,  near Norwich, where Cole was talking about one of the toughest challenges of all with a group of fellow dads about the importance of opening up about mental health issues.

As part of Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and Carling's campaign - More Than A Game - former Chelsea and Arsenal left-back Cole is travelling around grassroots football clubs to speak to clubs about how football can be used as a way of tackling poor mental health.

Match of the Dads founder Paul Godfrey and right-hand man Adam Kemp met with Cole when he visited the FDC, to talk him through why they set up the football league.

Ashley Cole with the Match of the Dads team.

Ashley Cole with the Match of the Dads team. - Credit: Adam Kemp

"Since we've started we've always supported the CALMzone charity," said Mr Kemp.

"Last season, we raised over £4,000 for them through our events and by running the league."

Match of the Dads was created for dads to socialise every week while raising money for CALM with the aim of allowing dads to take a breather from the toils of daily life and recharge their fatherhood batteries, whilst also making new friends and taking part in a physical activity.

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CALM and Carling teamed up to show ordinary people doing amazing things and formed Caring United.

"We've always been part of something called the Football Collective which is something CALM runs and champions local support groups like ourselves," said Mr Kemp.

"Caring United has taken that one step further. Through the initiative, they have provided myself and Paul with mental health first aid training which is important for the group so we can offer them first-hand support as well as provide us with new equipment for the club too." 

Mr Kemp described the experience with Cole as 'incredible' and said he was very generous with his time.

"It was incredible to have him around," he said.

"For the lads, it was an uplifting experience. Ashley came down during the day and did some filming with us and then when the lads turned up in the evening for the match, they got a massive surprise to see him there.

"We kept it very quiet so hardly anyone knew about it. They got the biggest shock!"

Ashley Cole with founder Paul Godfrey and right-hand man Adam Kemp.

Ashley Cole with founder Paul Godfrey and right-hand man Adam Kemp. - Credit: Adam Kemp

Mr Kemp added that Cole 'couldn't have been more supportive' about Match of the Dads.

"It's not every day you're stood in the same room as a former England international and Premier League winner," he said. 

"He was really humble and nice so it was great to spend the day with him. He was really supportive about what we are and what we do."

Match of the Dads do lots of fundraising and recently took part in a 24 hour charity game where we played five a side football non-stop for a full day.

"Four or five of the players played for 24 hours straight, they did have short breaks but they did very well," added Mr Kemp.

Match of the Dads has recently partnered with the Norfolk and Waveney Wellbeing Service to help strengthen its ability to support the dads in the group and community, with a large focus on future growth of the group.

"The future aim is to run some workshops and events in the coming year through our partnership, in helping our members with handling their own mental health and also hopefully training them in some basic mental health first aid to help others as well with mine and Paul's new accreditations."

Before he left, Cole gifted a signed Chelsea shirt to Match of the Dads which is set to be framed. The filming was carried out by JOE, the sports media company, on behalf of Carling and CALM for Caring United.

If you are struggling with mental health, contact the Samaritans for free on 116 123.

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