A Big Issue vendor in Swindon impressed onlookers at the first meeting of two football teams set up to boost the mental health of people in the community.
Ian Tanner (back row, fourth from right) played for the Swindon Town FC Community Foundation Mental Health football team in a friendly against Bristol Rovers Community Trust.
Tanner was brought on as a sub when the score sat at 5-5, and he made all the difference – with Swindon Town leaving Foundation Park as victors after a 10-5 win.
“It was really good,” Tanner told The Big Issue. “Both sides competed really hard and it was a fair result in the end – we managed to sweep five past them in the second half.
“It was a really hot day though so everyone got a bit tired. Thankfully it didn’t stop us showing them how good we were.”
The vendor, 57, got involved with the football initiative two years ago – and was made captain by his teammates in the time since. He believes it has made a huge difference to his mental health.
“That comradeship is probably the most important thing,” he said. “Even though I’m a bit older than the rest of the guys, we still get on. I’m pleased they gave me a bit of responsibility and I like taking the lead to create a pleasant atmosphere at all of our sessions.”
The team mates every Wednesday for an hour of training and is now looking forward to the next match – the details of which have yet to be unconfirmed.
Tanner has been selling the Big Issue for roughly four months, having previously worked as a tennis coach – which he calls his “first sport”, though he loves football – and a financial advisor.
He can be found outside Thornton’s on the Parade in Swindon, Monday-Wednesdays and on Fridays.
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
The vendor said being involved with The Big Issue has dramatically improved his mental health too because it provides him with income and the desire to work every day. He hopes it will be a stepping stone to getting back into the job market.
He is certain that he will keep attending football training “whatever happens”.
Stephen Holme is a health care assistant for the NHS’s Recovery Through Sport programme and runs the Swindon group. He said: “We were really looking forward to this match and it was great for our service users to meet with others, take part in a friendly match and talk to other people who have mental health conditions.
“The group aims to reduce social isolation and stigma associated with mental health problems, whilst promoting health and wellbeing, so a little bit of healthy competition should be good for all those taking part.”