Sunday 01 December 2013
There are over 30,000 military veterans in Liverpool, a figure which is expected to rise in the coming years, and for many it can be difficult to adapt back into civilian life after the armed forces.
The LFC Foundation’s Armed Forces programme aims to aid troops with this integration by helping the veterans recapture the spirit of their service. The Liverpool Academy, based in Kirkby, is at the heart of the programme and hosts weekly training sessions in state-of-the-art facilities, while the Goals Centre in Speke provides a five-a-side football league dedicated to veterans.
"The programme has given me real drive and enthusiasm to keep fit"
The programme also offers help with the integration back into civilian life with education and counselling services and last week Liverpool players Jordan Henderson, Simon Mignolet and Raheem Sterling gave it a boost by joining a group of ex-service personnel for a kickabout including a keepy-uppy challenge.
“Our Foundation's military veterans' programme supports the armed services through a programme of healthy lifestyle interventions and a military football league,” said Mark Haig, LFC Foundation head of operations. "We recognise the power of the LFC badge in attracting people to our initiatives and we are delighted to provide such a fantastic programme to hundreds of veterans across Liverpool."
For Warrant Officer Class 2 Craig Horner the programme gives men and women a sense of comradeship they enjoyed in the army. "It's a great programme which has helped many veterans so far and I know it will go from strength to strength," he said.
Jason Molloy, from Bootle, is another ex-serviceman who has benefited from the programme.
“It's great to be able to speak to other ex-service personnel about their experiences and continue to work together as part of a team,” the Liverpool fan said. "Really, the football is just a way of getting us together.
“You don't need to be at a great standard to join in - it really is for all levels. We do plenty of other things too and I even had the chance to ride on the first-team coach to a match we played against the US Airforce. I would recommend this programme to anyone coming back from duty. It's given me real drive and enthusiasm to keep fit. It's also the closest thing I'll get to becoming a Liverpool player!"
The Armed Forces programme is also one of the Foundation projects set to benefit from a donation of £50,000 worth of kit from the club's official supplier Warrior Football.
"Warrior is proud to support the work carried out by the Liverpool FC Foundation," said Richard Wright, global head of Warrior Football. "Their initiatives are truly inspirational and continue to better the lives of thousands of people. The power of sport is immeasurable and the Foundation uses it to create positive change in helping build brighter futures."