Dark Horses match footballers with lockdown teens to discuss mental health

Josh Peachey's picture

In a bid to give young people a space to openly talk about their lives in lockdown, Dark Horses has joined with charity Football Beyond Borders and Joe.co.uk to create Football Beyond Walls. 

During Mental Health Week, this initiative will use games of FIFA between young people, FBB practitioners and professional footballers to show those at risk that meaningful conversations can have a positive effect on a young person’s sense of wellbeing. 

Football Beyond Walls combines a passion for the game and the psychological process of distraction therapy - which says that when partially distracted we are able to have more sincere and meaningful conversations - to help teens open up.

The initiative is being launched by a four-minute film starring professional footballer Cyrus Christie playing two young people, Freddie and Bland, at FIFA.

During the games, they move into honest conversations about football, mental health and the current lockdown. Cyrus has himself talked openly about his own issues with mental health. 

The piece was filmed in their own homes with remote direction from Outsider’s Tom Day, adding a level of production quality difficult to obtain during the lockdown period. Questions and conversation starters were provided and guided throughout by FBB’s professional practitioners. Parents also gave written permission for Freddie and Bland to appear. 

During the games, they move into honest conversations about football, mental health and the current lockdown.

Jasper Kain, Co-founder of Football Beyond Borders, said: “When it comes to the lockdown, there has been a clear trend that teenagers feel isolated and do not feel as though they have a voice. We have also seen during this period that gaming is hugely popular and the main avenue in which teenage boys connect with the outside world.

"We want to harness this popularity as a force for good. When used in the correct way, games such as FIFA can be beneficial. It provides an opportunity to connect with others in a safe space and give young people a place to talk in a way that is very difficult to achieve in everyday life - especially when that life is spent indoors.”

Adam Burns, Senior Creative at Dark Horses, said: “To anyone who's grown up playing FIFA, this isn't news. Some of the most meaningful conversations I've had with my mates, have taken place whilst playing FIFA. The shared focus on the game allows you to almost detach emotionally, you lose yourself on the pitch, giving you the freedom to talk about whatever is on your mind. And this is what we wanted to capture with the film.” 

EA Sports suggest that more than 10 million people play FIFA globally with the largest proportion of those being teens.