Picture it… a cold winter’s night at Haggerston Park in East London. The air is so crisp it creates a puff of smoke at every breath. 75 year old veteran ‘fox in the box’ striker Tony Klug @tonyklug (as featured on Camden New Journal story “75-year-old who refuses to hang up his football boots“) is preparing himself for a solid 60 minutes of social football with his mates in his regular weekly 8 a side football game.
It’s a game he’s been playing for decades, and refuses to let up, his secret – Never stop playing. Tony is of course a fantastic example to everyone and a testament to the lifelong benefits of playing casual football week in week out at a grassroots level. He’s even got a showreel of his best goals to envy most professionals.
This dedication and passion for the game is exactly why London based Footy Addicts was created several years ago by managing director Konstantinos Gkortsilas (@kostadis). Kos (as people call him) realised how challenging it was to play regular football and equally how easy it was for small community games to crumble without the right setup and simple infrastructure to support them. Fast forward to 2020 and Footy Addicts is now a thriving social platform with over 100,000 users playing hundreds of games a week across the country.
The original Footy Addicts concept is fairly straightforward: to enable hassle free football for everyone, everywhere, anytime. You go on the website or mobile app, you find a game in your area that suits you, sign up and play; #simple
But look beyond the easy to use platform and it’s clear that something much bigger has emerged organically over time. It’s a feeling that football has always represented, that it’s international and knows no boundaries, that it belongs to the people, and that every effort should be made to make the sport more accessible to everyone, to enable the world to actively enjoy the beautiful game.
Football for everyone, anywhere at anytime
Footy Addicts tag line also means removing barriers that have stood in the way of football participation. No need to look at stereotypes such as age, gender, skill level or anything else that stands in the way between you and the pitch anymore. This is the football of the future – where you can find a game to play just from the tap of a phone, and where everyone is welcome to join.
Looking beyond the strong communities that participate in over 1,500 monthly games in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds & Liverpool, it has opened the door for some people to fall in love with the beautiful game again, and in some cases even falling in love for the first time.
For instance, Footy Addicts has been the place to be for casual women’s football in London since 2017. With regular games played in North London & West London (as well as co-ed games) dedicated to women, several passionate Footy Addicts have been calling their weekly game in Shepherd’s Bush or Angel home, but it doesn’t stop there. In the wake of the 2019 World Cup, women’s football has taken on a new dimension. From beginners to skilled players, casual footy has been one of the best ways for female players to get active, get out on the pitch and score some goals.
Footy Addicts means a lot to me because it demonstrates how football can be shared with people who I’ve never met before. I meet new people every week, and have made very good friends with people I’ve met through it. People I would have never met, if it weren’t for Footy AddictsRobyn (@robyn) for Footy Addicts games
Football fights isolation. Football fights for a social link that can be hard to find. Football is good for the soul.
And it raises the curtain on other important topics which demonstrate that the impact of football means a lot more to society than just goal posts and free kicks. Besides the obvious benefits in living an active healthy lifestyle; (a recent study by The FA showed that grassroots football could save the NHS £43.5M a year on annual GP visits alone).
Football is also proving an important way to help with mental health, by offering exercise in a social and fun context. According to The FA, football can deliver social inclusion while at the same time provide a healthy dose of adrenaline and serotonin. A topic amplified by the recent ‘Heads Up’ campaign by the FA and Heads Together which saw all Premier League games kick off 1 minute late to raise awareness, among other initiatives. Footy Addicts themselves know what its games represent to their community, and to people who feel isolated, and have shown their support by getting involved with FC Not Alone, whose purpose is to raise awareness for mental health issues through football.
In the modern age of today where experiences and interaction with others are scarier than ever, football is proving to be bigger than just kicking a ball. It’s about building communities and providing access to an exciting activity that can make all feel welcome, taking everyone one step further to living a happier life.