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Ten years of the Mental Health World Cup - Milestones and memorable moments

This May will mark ten years since the maiden Mental Health World Cup took place. Since that first event at Downhills Park in 2012, the event has gotten bigger and bigger, moving to QPR’s 18,000 capacity stadium and raising over £100,000 in total for CALM.

In this blog, the founder of the Mental Health World Cup, Giancarlo, looks back on the highlights of the past ten years, including the move to QPR's stadium, and looks forward to 2022's event...

What memorable moments stand out from the past ten years?

There are so many, it’s hard to pick just a few!

The first one in 2012 was special, and it was the only time (until this year) that we’ve filled out 32 teams.

2013 was special for me as my team, Italy, made it to the semi-final and I got the

player of the tournament trophy - every year I have team Italy reserved!

In 2014 we raised enough money to invest in some new quick setup goals and got rid of the cheap plastic Argos ones.

2016 was the first one at Arsenal and it was exciting to partner with a Premier League club. We had limited time on the pitch so had to organise it like a military operation! We also had an Xbox tournament running in parallel, as we only had two pitches and hundreds of players taking part.

Everything changed in 2019. Having the opportunity to play in professional stadium gave us a much bigger platform and a bigger pull for the public to take part. I decided to change the name to attract more people and help the event make sense to ‘The Mental Health World Cup’.

How did QPR get involved?

After holding the first few events at Downhills Park, attendees were still mostly Lanfranco’s friends and we wanted to reach more people with our message and raise more money for CALM.

In 2016, we got in touch with people from Arsenal and were able to hold the next two World Cups at their Community Hub, right next to the Emirates Stadium. It was at one of those events we met Justin Stone, Multi Activities Manager at QPR, who loved what we were doing. He himself had faced a similar trauma losing his brother-in-law to suicide. He wanted to help us take it to the next level and reach a larger audience offering us the pitch at QPR. We first held the World Cup at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, formerly Loftus Road, in 2019 and haven’t looked back!

Are there any key fundraising & sponsorship milestones you’ve met?

The main one for me is changing the cost to play. It was at Arsenal that I realised that players would only pay a maximum of £20 per person to play. I wanted to raise thousands for CALM and charging that small amount would require hundreds if not thousands of players to take part.

I thought it would be good to use the London Marathon model, get people to share what they’re doing, promoting awareness of mental health and raise more money through each team’s network.

Another milestone was after we moved to QPR we could open up to companies sponsoring the event, which raised even more money for CALM.

Overall, we have raised over £100,000 for CALM over the last 10 years.

How did the pandemic affect the event in 2020 and 2021?

Massively - we had to cancel 2020 even though we had sold out all 32 teams and collected a phenomenal amount of money in fundraising and sponsorship. We decided to run a small event in 2021 when restrictions were lifted. Four 11-a-side teams made up of 2-3 players from the existing pool of 32 teams to at signed up for 2020.

We had six weeks to organise the event, which was crazy! But we kept it simple and it was a massive success. We even managed to give £17,000 from what we’d raised and give it to CALM and the QPR Community Trust

Do you think there have been any improvements to men’s mental health and suicide prevention services and messaging over the past 10 years?

Massively. As mentioned in the previous blog, back in 2012 nobody wanted to talk about suicide or mental health. Since then, I’ve appeared on the BBC talking to Professor Green about our experiences, travelled to Copenhagen to talk to the UN about what more needs to be done, and carried out talks at constructions sites talking about how we all need to express our emotions more.

I think the conversation has moved; people are more aware and people know that suicide is one of the biggest killers of men under 50.

For me, the next step is how to deal with it - how do we support those people who are now aware?

How it will feel to have a full event this year after 2020 & 2021?

Amazing! This event has been in the pipeline since 2019. Lots of teams had reserved their place back then, so to finally bring this tournament to the big stage with 32 teams is going to be special. It’s something we never thought possible when we were kicking a ball round Downhills park with a few mates.

This year is going to be massive and we’re aiming to raise over £30,000 for CALM. We’re hoping to have 500 people in attendance and make it a great day out for everyone involved!

How can people support this year’s event?

We need a small army to manage the 500 people, with everything from managing the ticket stall to getting teams on to the right pitch at the right time. Contact if you want to get involved!

Each of the 32 teams has a sponsorship page, head over to our donation page and choose a team to sponsor! Teams have sold out, but you can still be put on the waiting list for playing on the day.

Tickets are also available to attend the event if you fancy cheering on the 32 teams and enjoying a great day out at a proper football stadium!

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