Norwich brothers set up own football team to improve mental and physical health during pandemic

Two brothers have set up their own community football team to help people stay mentally and physically fit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Mazzei and Ewan Martin came up with the idea just after lockdown while they were out walking together in Waterloo Park in Norwich.

After posting an appeal on Facebook for local players to join them for a kickabout, they were inundated with people wanting to sign up.

Since then, they've been running weekly training sessions and the numbers have grown so big that they are now hoping to enter a team into a local league next season.

Ewan Martin (left) and Joe Mazzei (right). Credit: ITV News Anglia

"Me and my brother were coming over here (Waterloo Park) with my dog, just kind a having a kickabout while the dog was having a walk, and kind of got a bit lonely," Joe Mazzei told ITV News Anglia.

"We just put a post out on Facebook and it just kind of went crazy!"

The brothers have called the team 'Waterloo United' - a name that not only references the park where the club was founded, but also the bond that now exits between its members.

The aim of the club is to give people of all backgrounds, genders, ages and abilities some escapism from the pandemic by giving them something to look forward to every week.

A new report from the Centre for Mental Health recently revealed that around 8.5 million adults and 1.5 million children in England are likely to need mental health support in the wake of Covid-19.

All ages and genders are welcome to come along to training. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Male mental health is not something that's really talked about a huge amount.

Charli Crowe, Secretary

"There's a huge stigma behind taking about mental health," Secretary Charli Crowe said.

"Part of what we're trying to do is, yes, we want you to come and have a kickabout but we also want you to make friends and be part of your community."

The club are based at Waterloo Park in Norwich. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The club now have ambitions to put together an 11-a-side adult team and have just secured more than £1,000 worth of funding from local group Catton Grove Big Local to install new goalposts.

The local council have also marked out a pitch for them at the park, and the brothers are dreaming of making it all the way to the top of the football pyramid one day - even though they'll be long retired by then!

"We've actually got a consistent 20 people turning up every week, that's probably the one thing that we didn't expect to be happening - that's been amazing," said Ewan.

"It's only 20 odd promotions to reach the Premier League! It's always worth having the ambition, even if it doesn't pay off. We went in with very little ambition and quickly realised there was a lot to gain out of it for everyone."