top of page

The Elephant on the pitch

Many great things are inspired by small insignificant moments. Something you see, hear, or do maybe, a throwaway comment…. that lightbulb moment.

Way back in the annals of time, October 2020 to be precise, which seems like such a long time ago now, during one of the early sessions of #OneGameAtaTime, such a moment existed. For those who are not aware, our programme #OneGameAtaTime is a drop-in football session that we run on Friday nights which is aimed at trying to help tackle Men’s mental health and prevention of suicide in Warrington.

The sessions started at the end of September 2020 and are based on the football fours format of the game. With shorter 7-minute games and teams of 4 players with no goalkeepers, each player gets more touches of the ball and as such becomes more actively involved in the game. The format also allows the players who are in between games the opportunity to talk each other to try to overcome whatever challenges they may be facing. The goal is to play and talk.

On this particular evening, I was joined by 2 members of MoveMENt which is a programme in Warrington set up by a collaboration of Men’s mental health groups with the purpose of proactively preventing suicide in men in the town. We got to talking about what was happening in Warrington with Men’s mental health and how we could promote what we were doing further. MoveMENt had booked their launch date for 5th November dealing with the theme of talking about the Elephant in the Room and we realised that as International Men’s day was not long after that, 19th November, then maybe #OneGameAtaTime could do an official opening to coincide with that date.

As our sessions are on Fridays then our nearest session would be 20th November and from that point the creative juices started to flow, ideas were bounced around and then the throwaway comment. I am not sure who can be credited for it, but someone said “wouldn’t it be great if we could get some of the Men’s mental health groups together all in one place” or something along those lines. Ping! the lightbulb moment. Yes, we could do it. We had the venue, we had the time, and we had the opportunity…we do a tournament between the groups doing exactly what we are doing anyway.

And so, The Elephant Cup was born. Once the idea was out there everything else followed suit. We had 4 weeks to arrange. Teams were invited, venue sorted, posters created (by accident we even used the same visual as MoveMENt’s elephant logo but that just seemed to naturally flow as we were all collaborating on both projects), photographer sorted everything was gathering momentum.

Then BOOM, Lockdown II was announced and the Elephant Cup (I say it is a cup, it’s actually a sculpture of the head of an Elephant and to call it the Elephant Trophy seemed wrong) was put back on the shelf.

Not to be deterred, “wouldn’t it be a great idea to finish this really rubbish year off with a bang” someone, not sure who, said, during a zoom meeting. As that Lockdown was only due to be for a month, we hastily rearranged the date and got everything back in place so that we could finally showcase exactly what we were doing with #OneGameAtaTime.

Time then went very slowly but finally on the 18th December, the last Friday before the 2020 Christmas break, we brought the Elephant down from the shelf and welcomed some of Warrington’s Men’s mental health groups, Offload, Directions for Men, Talk Hub, MENergy and a collaboration of Enjoy Football, Fit to Tackle and MoveMENt (Fit to Enjoy Football), to join us in the inaugural Elephant Cup.

The format was a round robin tournament using the football fours format, to not only celebrate the official launch of the #OneGameAtaTIme sessions but the hard work that many of the groups have put in throughout an exceedingly difficult last 12 months. Each team had a squad of 5 players, to allow for substitutes (and believe me they needed them as despite the games being only 7 minutes long, they are intense and quick) although I’m sure Offload had 6 or 7 squad members, but hey, no matter as the important thing is that the guys came along and joined in within the spirit of the event.

After a quick briefing from the match official for the evening (yours truly) in relation to the rules the guys were ready and eager to go.

Each team played every other team once and over the course of 10 exciting and competitive games, there was an abundance of fiercely fought out battles both individual and collectively, some silky dazzling skills on display, some comedy moments and plenty of goals. I must confess that it really was a joy to officiate and be part of this great night. VAR was only asked for once and declined and we had a couple of controversial moments, but the lads played with honesty and in the spirit of what we were trying to achieve.

Talk Hub came out as the eventual winners and have vowed to defend the trophy at which is now going to be a quarterly event. Though from some of the comments made, some of the guys are eager to take the trophy away from them so it should make the next one interesting.

All in all, the night was a fantastic success and played within a great atmosphere. Every box we wanted ticking was ticked and everyone who took part left exhausted but with smiles on their faces.

We must thank the following for without them, the Elephant cup would simply not have been as great as it was.

Bank Quay Sports for allowing us to use the venue.

Warrington Charities Trust for funding the playing shirts that each player took away as a memento of the evening.

Bryan from Warrington Volunteer Action who gave up time to produce some stunning photos.

Every one of the players and the volunteers who attended.

Ian, Bryan (again) and James who have been an inspiration behind this and without whom the initial idea would not have sparked this great night.

Renovation Station for the engraving of the Cup.

We cannot wait until Easter when we go again, so see you then.


bottom of page