A new health initiative – which is the first of its kind in the UK – has been launched by Aberdeen Football Club.
The Dons have joined forces with US-based Grassroot Soccer to roll out a football-inspired education programme for young people.
The scheme was launched today at the new £47 million Lochside Academy and will be run with the AFC Community Trust (AFCCT).
Grassroot Soccer was founded by Tommy Clark, son of legendary Aberdeen and Scotland goalkeeper Bobby Clark.
Tom Crotty, the US-based businessman who became an investor in AFC last year, is a major donor to the charity and a board member.
The new initiative has been welcomed by Aberdeen City Council as well as Lochside Academy which will run the course.
Stewart Milne, chairman of the Dons, said they were proud to be chosen as a partner for the initiative
He said: “It’s well recognised that sport has a proven, positive impact on mental health and well-being.
“Through the AFC brand and the power of and passion for football, we are able to touch so many lives in so many positive ways, evidenced by numerous life- changing stories as a result of the tremendous work of AFCCT.
“We’re proud and privileged to be a chosen partner for Grassroot Soccer and will help spread and support their message and efforts across football in the UK.”
Following the launch at Lochside Academy, AFCCT will be able to use the football-based curriculum throughout the north-east.
Neil Hendry, head teacher at Lochside Academy, said: “We’re delighted to have been chosen to launch the pilot of this innovative programme. This work will focus on improving the mental health of all at young people Lochside Academy.”
Grassroot Soccer works with different agencies including governments, to try to educate and inspire young people to live healthier and more productive lives.
Founder Tommy Clark said: “Our ethos is to work alongside local implementing partners to increase the scale and impact of our programmes in an efficient and sustainable way. We’re really pleased to team up with AFC particularly because of my family’s affiliation with the club, to reach a wider audience throughout Scotland and the UK.
“Grassroot Soccer programmes address acute health issues such as HIV, malaria, gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health as well as focusing on determinants of health such as education and employment to ensure young people stay on a positive health journey well into adulthood.”
John Wheeler, education operational delivery convener at Aberdeen City Council, said Lochside Academy was the perfect choice for the scheme by the different organisations.
He said: “It’s marvellous that the new Lochside Academy has already been chosen to spearhead this football-based curriculum promoting health and well-being among our young people.
“Having visited the site myself only last week and seeing the superb facilities there, I can think of no better setting to kick off this major programme.
“We’re looking forward to seeing some fabulous results, on and off the pitch at Lochside when the programme gets under way.”