Giancarlo Gaglione from Wendover organised a five a side world cup at QPR's Loftus Road ground to raise vital awareness of mental health issues and £42,000 in funds for charity
Sunday May 12 2019, was a great day to kick off Mental Health Awareness Week, with the first ever Mental Health World Cup at QPR’s Loftus Road Stadium.
The sun was shining, as 400 players and spectators made their way to be a part of this incredible event – all pulled off by the hard work of one local Wendover resident, Giancarlo Gaglione.
Gaglione has been running a charity World Cup tournament, with the help of his family and friends, since losing his youngest brother, Lanfranco to suicide in 2012.
Each year the tournament has grown, from humble beginnings in a North London park, through to the last three years where the tournament was hosted at Arsenal’s community hub, next to the Emirates stadium.
But this year marked a monumental step-change for the cause, when QPR donated their home ground to host the event, and corporate sponsors got behind it for the first time.
Now named the Mental Health World Cup, the day kicked off at 8am with registration of twenty-four 5-a-side teams, who had each raised a minimum of £500 in sponsorship to enable them to play.
The pitch was marked-up into 5 separate pitches where the teams warmed up and then went on to play the initial Group stages.
Giancarlo Gaglione explained: "The day was run like a real world cup, with Group stages kicking off at 9am.
From 9am until nearly midday each team played five intense 12 minute games, on one of the five marked out 5-a-side pitches.
"What started off as a bit of fun, soon got more competitive as the teams strove to stay on top of their game despite the heat of the unaccustomed morning sunshine.
"Cheered on by crowds of supporters and managed closely by an army of volunteers, the teams gave it their all but only 16 made it through to the knockout stages.
The event featured ex-England, Spurs and QPR star Andy Sinton, who gave a poignant speech before the knockout stages explaining the importance of the event. He pointed out that mental health can affect anyone – no matter who you are. And how being strong, means having the strength to speak out, and understanding that, “it’s ok not to be ok.”
After the knockout stages followed the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals where teams gave it their all in a bid to make the final. But team Italy and Australia were ultimately pipped to the post as England and Jamaica made it to the Final.
The teams were made up of many companies in the construction industry, as well as additional teams from creative services, the local community and of course QPR’s own team.
Gaglione’s employers, construction and fit out firms Overbury and Morgan Lovell, were headline sponsors for the event which helped to draw support from across the rest of the industry.
Gaglione said, “The atmosphere on the day was incredible. People from all walks of life, all there to help raise funds and awareness for a great cause and ultimately, have a great time. There was hot food, an open bar, cake sale, sweet stall, inflatable goal posts and a kids games and craft area keeping everyone fed, entertained and in the great spirit of the day.”
But it was employees from Overbury who eventually raised the golden cup as Team England beat Jamaica in a hotly contested final.
Giancarlo added: "This tournament proved to be a great way to get people talking about mental health and the risk suicide poses – especially to men under the age of 45. With 400 attendees and reaching hundreds of thousands of people through social media not only did the tournament raise awareness, it also raised over £42,000.
"The funds will be split between mental health charity CALM and QPR’s Community Trust, helping disadvantaged people in the community including those suffering with their mental health.
"This incredible achievement would not have been possible without the efforts of the official tournament sponsors, Overbury, Morgan Lovell, QPR, Sale Group and Adam Bourne Creative
"Thanks also to our incredible fund-raising players, donators, the volunteers, spectators, organisers, and generous support from Indigo Buteo and Aylesbury based printers The Print Lab who have all been incredible."
"If you have a team or a business that would like to be a part of the Mental Health World Cup 2020 we urge you to get in touch via our website www.mentalhealthworldcup.org.uk – we look forward to seeing you there!”