The dads coming together on the football pitch to talk about baby loss

Rhys Foran's son Cooper died when he was eight months old.

Aside from dealing with his grief, Rhys soon came to realise the stigma associated with losing a child made it very hard to talk openly.

Rhys is not alone. Many parents who lose a child say they experience feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Cooper Foran died at just 8 months old, his father is one of the founding members of Sands United Cardiff. Credit: ITV Wales News

People don't know what to say to you, it's as though they are walking on egg shells and when you say I've lost a child they go all coy whereas my son's my favourite subject to talk about.

Rhys Foran

Having other bereaved parents to talk to is vital, and fathers in particular can struggle to find ways of finding the right type of support.

Every day in the UK around 15 babies die before, during or soon after birth.

That means every 90 minutes, a family is faced with the devastation of the death of their baby.

Sands United Cardiff is the only team of its kind in Wales. Credit: ITV Wales News

Earlier this year, Rhys along with another bereaved father, Stephen Doran, set up a football team specifically for those who have lost babies.

The idea came after the pair learnt that a team had been set up by a couple in Northampton following the death of their baby daughter in 2017.

More teams have since been established right across the UK, helping other bereaved families channel their grief and help break the silence around baby loss.

The only team of its kind in Wales is based in Treforest. Established earlier this year, the squad now has 33 members who attend regular training sessions on a Wednesday evening and play matches on a Saturday.

Just like any other football team I've been involved with, there is the normal locker room messing around, but deep down we know that if we need each other, they're there and often we'll have, ''boys I need to have a chat'', and everyone can understand. Everyone drops what they're doing and they're there for each other.

Rhys Foran
Stephen Doran wants to keep his son Jude's memory alive through Sands United Cardiff. Credit: ITV Wales News

Stephen Doran was keen to set up the club to help others and to keep his son, Jude's, memory alive.

It has also given him, for the first time, since Jude's death in November 2014 the chance to talk openly.

To talk about your loss and knowing your not alone, I think that was the biggest thing too, thinking this is the only person that this has happened too.

Stephen Doran

Some members of the team lost babies more than a decade ago, and for others it's much more recent, but they all use the grief they share to help support each other.

Football is what these men come here to do each week, but for all of them it's secondary to the support they both give and receive.

Regardless of skill or ability, this team welcomes anyone struggling with grief or just in need of support.

While the team mates here are able to talk openly to each other, they also want to raise awareness that parents who have lost babies want to talk openly about them and want people to mention their name in order to keep their memory alive.