Onside Programme Kicks off

‘Onside’ Programme kicks off in Portadown and Markethill

Free football sessions for veterans to be delivered by Ely Centre

A six-week programme of football sessions aimed at making a difference to the lives of veterans of HM Forces has started in Portadown and Markethill with plans to establish additional hubs across counties Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone.   

The Onside Project is delivering walking football sessions followed by lunch and short health awareness talks. Veterans are put through their paces by football coach Aaron McNeil, although the football element of the programme comes secondary to the physical and social aspects of providing a platform for people with shared experiences to come together.

Project Co-Ordinator, Christine Spence said she was delighted with the response to both Portadown and Markethill hubs and is looking forward to seeing how it develops over the coming weeks.

She said: “For veterans who have seen at first-hand the benefits of working together in a team in their professional lives, I believe football is a fantastic vehicle to help them tackle both physical and mental health issues. The programme also provides the opportunity for companionship and social interaction.”

“First and foremost, the sessions are great fun. There was a healthy level of competition throughout the walking football sessions but the laughter was the most pleasing aspect of both hubs and I am excited to see how the they can develop.”

“In addition to the walking football we will be working to raise awareness of health issues in order to increase the overall well-being of everyone who takes part. A variety of guest speakers will deliver short presentations on topics such as heart health, diabetes and nutrition during lunch.”

One veteran who took part in the Portadown hub has said the project has the power to give participants a real boost, both physically and mentally.

He said: “It was so much fun to be meeting people who have gone through exactly the same things as I have in my career.

“These football sessions give us the chance to come together, firstly as friends who want to have fun together and secondly they are a vehicle for us to learn new skills to help us in our private lives.

“I would have no hesitation in recommending the Onside Project and I would encourage other veterans to become involved. They really have the power to be life-changing.”

This project has been made possible with thanks to the Positive Pathways Programme funded by Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.

If you are interested in taking part in the Onside programme contact Christine Spence on 07749476720 or email christine@elycentre.co.uk for further information.