PLAYING football is helping people with mental health problems gain confidence and make friends.
Portsmouth Football Club’s Pompey Study Centre has been running the Imagine Your Goals scheme for three years.
Each week two groups of people meet for an hour and learn to play football.
And as well as getting fit, the sport is also helping players meet new people.
Project manager Louis Mack said: ‘The project provides physical activity and social inclusion for people with mental health problems.
‘We have two sessions, one on a Monday and a second on Thursday.
‘The idea is to use football as a motivational tool and they can meet new people.
‘It has been really successful and we have a lot of people coming along each week, who enjoy playing football.’
John Wallis, 26, was referred to the service after he came out of prison.
He said: ‘Football is helping me to get out and about.
‘I have made a few friends since being here.
‘I have enjoyed playing football since I was six and so it’s great to play now.’
Gareth Nash, 26, has also been playing with the team for 12 months.
His friend Martin Clifford, 27, comes along to support him.
Gareth said: ‘We have been playing football for about a year and I really enjoy it.
‘Playing football gives me something to look forward to and it relaxes me.
‘I don’t like to talk about what has happened, I just love coming here each week to play the game.
‘I love football and wouldn’t miss these games for the world.’
His friend Martin has also noticed a change in Gareth’s personality.
He said: ‘Gareth told me about the team and asked if I wanted to go along.
‘When he first started he had no confidence, but since then he has come out of himself a lot more.’
A football group for all military ex-service people has also been set up, which is held at Miltoncross School from 6.30pm to 7.30pm, every Monday.