Prince William is hosting an outdoor screening of a soccer showcase in the English countryside.
The prince, 38, invited fans, players and some deserving frontline workers to enjoy the FA Cup Final in a royal setting – and celebrate a culmination of his Heads Up mental health campaign.
William, as President of the Football Association, would normally be at the Arsenal against Chelsea match at London's Wembley Stadium, and handing over the trophy to the winning team's captain at the end. But with the game being held largely without spectators, William was joined by former Arsenal captain Tony Adams (who heads his own support organization for sports people) and Chelsea soccer player Fran Kirby.
His party for about 25 people took place in an open space on Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham estate, not far from his own country home Anmer Hall, and included people who have been supported by Heads Up charity partners, like Mind and Calm, and frontline workers and first responders. There were also some fans from the locally-based Arsenal and Chelsea supporters’ clubs.
Before the game, William met with his guests, listening to their mental health stories and the frontline workers’ experiences of life during the coronavirus pandemic.
The game has been named the Heads Up FA Cup, and is the culmination of a season-long project to raise awareness of mental health within the game and especially to improve men’s ability to talk about their wellbeing.
William’s favorite team, Aston Villa, might not be in the final but the two teams have taken a leading role in the ongoing Heads Up campaign. Chelsea’s manager Frank Lampard has joined William at events, while the royal joked with the Arsenal team coach Mikel Arteta and some of his team via a video call in June.
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On the eve of the match, William said in a promotional video chat with the England soccer boss, Gareth Southgate, that it is not a "weakness" to discuss mental health. "The idea of being able to be open about your emotions and fix a problem is a positive, it’s a strength, not a weakness. And I think that that culture is something that we hopefully are seeing a slight shift in,” he said in the #SoundofSupport film.
And Southgate told him, “I think there is very often this feeling ‘I’m the only one, there’s nowhere to go’ and some of the most successful people in the world have had these issues or have problems with self-confidence, self-belief. It doesn’t have to be an extreme case. There are various issues with people’s mental health, that can affect how they feel or how they perform and it’s making sure that we don’t feel that there’s a stigma for people, that it’s acceptable to look for help.”