It comes just a day after Premier League footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and partner Georgina Rodriguez announced the death of their baby boy, saying it is the ‘greatest pain that any parents can feel’.
Nick Lang, 41, launched Sands Solent United three years ago alongside Peter Moseley to provide men with a safe space to cope with grief following their loss through stillbirth, miscarriage and neonatal death.
After lockdowns imposed by the pandemic, Nick says parents who have experienced a loss of a baby ‘were less visible’ and may have faced struggles to access support.
Now he’s on a mission to change that.
He said: ‘We're conscious that there's a lot of mums and dads who probably weren't aware of us when they were going through their loss in the last year or two because of Covid and the fact that we were probably less visible to them as we'd previously been.
‘From our side it's making ourselves visible again to those families.
‘We've been participating in the Gosport, Fareham and Solent league and now that that's over it gives us an opportunity to focus where we're at as a club and try and reach out to those families who have not only suffered loss but they also suffered it during times when they probably had to spend a lot of time on their own.
‘Maybe they’ve even had to go through that experience in hospital by themselves.’
Nick experienced the death of his own baby daughter in 2016, and discovered that though support groups were there, the support was mainly sided towards mums as acknowledging men’s mental health was more of a ‘taboo’ topic then.
Sands Solent United is one of more than 30 clubs founded by the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands to support people affected by the death of a baby.
Three years ago, Nick Lang and Peter Moseley came together to set up the charity after being spurred on by its success of the original club set up in Northampton in 2018.
On hearing the news of the death of Ronaldo and his partner’s baby son, Nick said: ‘It just goes to show that rich, poor, no matter what your background, sadly anyone can be affected by baby loss and the stats have dropped slightly. But when we first started three years ago, every 90-minutes for every game of football a baby would die in the UK.’
Sands United FC has more than 30 active dads involved who have all experienced the loss of a baby in some way.
The club is about supporting one another, putting aside athletic abilities with football being the cohesive ‘vehicle’ to get everyone together.
Nick said: ‘We really pride ourselves on being a mixed ability and mixed fitness team.
‘We've got lads who come in for training who just like the kick about in some ways. They don't necessarily have much interest in the football, they just want to be around others.
‘There's been a real shift in the last few years in acknowledging men's mental health.
‘Ten years ago it was very different. [Dads] didn't have the opportunity to speak and when they came into the club it was a very unusual and daunting thing to step into, knowing that they were probably going to go back over. It brings back memories that they might have gone through.’