Being football crazy is good for my mental health

February 12, 2020

Still from Exposure’s Memory Lane documentary about Spurs

Emma de Duve explains how her passion for Spurs and the beautiful game is beneficial

Football is a huge part of my life. I have had a passion for the game since I was very young which was inspired and encouraged by my dad. He has been a massive Tottenham Hotspur fan since he was little and has passed on his devotion to my older sister and me. I have had a season ticket for Spurs for about 15 years and have recently started to go to some away games too; which is very exciting.

My interest and enthusiasm for football emerged through actually playing the game. I started around the age of eight and continued until I was 16. I tried out various positions and competed against numerous teams in north London. Sadly I stopped playing competitive football two years ago as my team disbanded, due to a lack of players and I wanted to focus on my studies and get a place at university.

I think football is such a great sport to be involved in, especially for young people. It is a terrific team activity, which develops focus, communication and dedication, as well as keeping you fit.

Joining a football team or just playing regularly with friends, as I have done for many years, can bolster both physical and mental health. Football is good for my mental wellbeing as it keeps my mind alert and focused.

The FA are promoting the idea that football can improve mental health to encourage more young people to get involved in the game

The Football Association (FA) is one of many bodies to have signed the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation. This sets out how sport can use its communal aspect to tackle mental health and the stigma that surrounds it. The FA and other bodies are promoting the idea that football can improve mental health to encourage more young people to get involved in the game.

There are still more opportunities for boys to get involved but football is slowly developing into a more equal sport. It is becoming progressively easier for girls to join teams, especially through programmes like Football Beyond Borders.

This is an initiative working with boys and girls that uses the power of the game as an educational tool to inspire and raise self-esteem amongst young people who might not be fulfilling their potential.

Despite my love for football, I believe the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (more commonly known as VAR) has had a huge impact on the game, not all positive. It was introduced in top flight European football by the Bundesliga in Germany and the Serie A in Italy at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. It was first used in an English football game in January 2018.

VAR reviews goals, penalties, direct red cards and any mistaken identities but won’t review yellow cards and free kicks outside the box, unless they are red card offences.

There are some benefits to VAR because it can make the game fairer as decisions are looked into rather than an initial decision by the referee being final. This is also useful as if the referee hasn’t had a good view of a challenge in the box, for example, it can be checked to ensure the right action is taken.

Despite these benefits it has received a lot of criticism. One major disadvantage is that it stops the flow of the game. Some decisions can take minutes because the incident has to be looked at multiple times and at different angles.

This frustrates fans, including myself, as we aren’t always kept updated with what is happening whilst a decision is made. Another drawback is the decisions that are made can still be seen as subjective. Fouls that lead to penalties can be seen by different referees and fans in different ways.

As a Spurs fan myself, waiting for the decision from VAR is a very tense moment, especially when the outcome could massively affect the game

Once decisions have been made about penalties, for example, screenshots and videos at different angles are often posted on social media. This gives fans a chance to see the incident back but many of them will have different views on the decisions made, as do some referees. This means VAR may not be 100% effective.

Tottenham have been quite lucky with VAR decisions. They have seen five disallowed goals against them and only two disallowed goals for them. As a Spurs fan myself, waiting for the decision from VAR is a very tense moment, especially when the outcome could massively affect the game.

I do think that when the decision goes in favour of your team it gives the fans a sense of relief but also probably motivates players to ensure they don’t find themselves in that position again. However, I think the criticism needs to be taken into account and perhaps means the way VAR is used needs reviewing.

Despite all of this, VAR proves that football is progressing alongside technology. It does and will continue to face a lot of backlash but there is nothing more exciting than when a VAR decision goes your team’s way at a big moment in the game.

See trailer for Exposure’s documentary about Spurs:

You can access the full documentary here by making a donation to Exposure charity.

Emma studied History, Religious Studies and Drama at Woodhouse College. She is a big football fan and has recently completed a journalism degree at Nottingham Trent University. Emma has recently become an active advocate of decluttering.

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