5-a-side football provider, Powerleague, has teamed up with Street Soccer London and suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) to host a silent football match as part of their Play to Talk campaign.

The event aims to shine a light on how the game we love can bring people together and help them have tricky conversations when times are tough, on and off the pitch.

Over 40 players took part in the Play To Talk event at the Powerleague Shoreditch site, with the first half spent in silence as players refrained from speaking to their teammates during play.

In the second half they were able to communicate as they normally would in a game.

Pundit and former professional footballer, Paul Merson, who has experienced struggles with his own mental health, took part in the Play To Talk launch. He said: “Having taken part today, I know the Play To Talk event was really powerful.

“Playing football in silence is hard, it’s frustrating and it feels lonely. I think this experience mirrored what it can feel like in day-to-day life when we bottle up our feelings and worries. Talking to somebody helps.

Play To Talk aims to encourage a culture across the UK whereby people talk more openly, not only to their trusted teammates but also to those beyond the pitch, such as family members and friends.

5-a-side football is a safe haven for many, providing a sense of belonging and community.

Therefore, it’s widely recognised by organisations such as Street Soccer London and CALM, as a pathway for people to form trusted friendships and to talk with each other – importantly sharing what they’re going through, rather than bottling it up.

Christian Rose, CEO at Powerleague explained: “We are really pleased to be working with CALM and Street Soccer London for our Play To Talk campaign. Both help and support those who are struggling on a daily basis, and together we aim to use 5-a-side to reach out to those at risk and have a positive impact by encouraging people to start their conversations and help their mental wellbeing.

“We’ve seen first-hand how much people have missed playing. We talk to our customers and hear how issues such as loneliness and isolation have been helped by the return of outdoor sports. Powerleague is committed to supporting customers and staff in maintaining their mental health as much as their physical health.

“We’re currently in the process of providing mental health training to all staff across Powerleague.”

David Duke MBE, Founder and CEO at Street Soccer, said: “If you were struggling with your knee or hamstring, would you let your teammates know about it? It is just as important to talk to your teammates about your mental health as much as your physical health. Football and 5-a-side offers players a chance to come together, chat & socialise whilst getting active, and after the last 12 months it has never been more important to get out and play. We are delighted to support Play To Talk alongside Powerleague and CALM”.

Simon Gunning, CEO at CALM said: ‘With footy back on the menu now Government restrictions have been lifted, we know that across the country at small-sided football venues there will still be those rivalries, those dodgy pass backs and those 50-50 chances, but whether it’s been a hard week or results aren’t going so well on the pitch, it is important that teams pull together and look out for one another, both on and off the pitch.”

Play To Talk aims to encourage a culture in which people talk more openly and ask for help, not only to their trusted teammates but also to those beyond the pitch, such as family members and friends.