Introducing Solent Sports FC – the club with more than 750 players priding themselves on ‘emotional growth’ over results
Solent Sports FC is the football club with a difference which continues to go from strength to strength.
Started by Steve Fletcher in 2019 in a bid to combat his personal social isolation, the club now has more than 750 players associated to it across a number of facilities in the south coast region.
Rather than becoming preoccupied and pressured by results, the non-competitive Solent Sports instead focus on emotional growth as opposed to the physical growth of those involved.
Fletcher, originally from Leeds, initially put out a Facebook post two years ago to rouse up a few players for a kickabout.
But not even he could have imagined what started with just six participants turning out in Hamble would progress to boasting numerous centres across the Solent region.
Fletcher put out feelers to socialise with others in an area new to him while playing football - now his idea has seen hundreds of people come together to form a close bond.
He said: 'I was a 40-year-old struggling with my weight and a lack of friends; I’m not from down here originally and even though I had work colleagues, a job and a wife I didn’t have any friends, which sounds a bit sad.
‘I put an advert out on Facebook saying I wanted to play football and seeing if anyone would want to join me.
‘I couldn’t find a team that would have me because I’m overweight and 40, but I had a few guys who turned up and we started off with six down in Hamble.
‘It’s a mixture of people. It can be people who have struggled to find a team, I’ve got players who’ve got health conditions - diabetes, epilepsy - who can’t commit to a real team but they want to play regularly.
'The underlying thing is still that social isolation, these guys become friends, they’re friends on WhatsApp; especially over the past year, a few of the lads have put on there can we meet for a walk or go for a run - there’s always someone on there who is free and they can meet up to support each other.
‘We’ve had kids being born, we’ve had deaths in families and there’s always someone there to support each other - away from the football pitch it’s more than that as well.
‘It’s lovely to see players grow. There are a number of players who join and they’re lacking confidence and fitness. We’re not here to say, ‘right, we’re going to make you fit and the world's best footballer,’ but emotionally they grow and that’s beautiful to see.
‘It’s just really nice to see the lads enjoying it and smiling - I’m looking to see the emotional growth rather than the physical growth.'
Following on from the Hamble launch success, a Solent Sports FC group was started in Portsmouth and now there are weekly meet-ups for friendly matches in Gosport, Havant, Hedge End, Southampton, Winchester and Chichester.
The Portsmouth men’s group meet at Miltoncross Academy on a Wednesday evening and the ladies meet at Portsmouth Academy on the same night.
Portsmouth Solent Sports FC are launching a veterans team who will play in the Meon Valley Veterans League in 2021/22.
Meanwhile, also in Portsmouth, a ladies group has been started and the potential of launching a competitive team is a possibility.
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/Solentsportsfc