SwansAid grant to help fund Wales Air Ambulance paediatric equipment
A rain-soaked and windswept airfield just outside Swansea on a dank grey Wednesday afternoon in the middle of January: not the most glamorous setting for the visit of local Premier League stars.
My love of football and photography has neatly combined in the last few months, thanks to photographing matches pitch-side at a number of clubs across the professional football pyramid.
While you can’t appreciate the full pattern of a game when you’re mostly following the ball through a viewfinder, it’s still enjoyable for a fan, and made more enjoyable when it’s not cold and raining.
Those loves were brought together in a different context recently, when the occasional loan of my services to Wales Air Ambulance called for another trip to the charity’s Swansea Airbase.
Regularly seeing professional footballers in their natural domain, it becomes difficult not to lazily generalise about them. They can seem like a very different, supremely confident breed of headstrong people, existing in a confined and sterilised bubble of testosterone. Perhaps it is the stark black and white clarity of the football pyramid that makes it so brutally competitive.
|Leon Britton and Ashley Williams of Swansea compete with Christian Eriksen of Spurs.|
Either way, I’d like to imagine most footballers are aware on some level of the theatre and pantomime of their profession; the expectations to perform and behave in certain ways on the pitch. That’s a large part of what attracts fans, after all.
But the visit of Swansea City players Leon Britton and Neil Taylor to the Swansea airbase of Wales Air Ambulance offered the chance to see and photograph footballers in a different light, as regular young guys and particularly as fathers and family-men.
Together with club legend and official ambassador Lee Trundle, the SwansAid party learned how the club’s £2,000 Community Trust Fund grant will fund lifesaving equipment for pre-hospital baby care.
|Smiles and serious reflection during the visit.|
During the visit, the party grew to better understand the emergency service, while the players appeared to feel surprise and sadness upon learning that operating the three helicopters across Wales really is 100% charity; there is no other funding.
Set up to help fund special projects supporting children and young people in West Wales, the Swansea City fund will provide vital support for both Wales Air Ambulance and a number of other recipients across the region.
Like many hopeless football lovers, I’m constantly pulled back by the magical moments: a stunning goal or an individual piece of skill like you’ve never seen before, the fluency and perfect understanding of a team’s passing game.
Added to this is the vital component of it mattering so much to so many people; of it mattering a frankly ridiculous amount.
Club tribalism of course makes this ok. It’s accepted, even encouraged, to scream and shout, to laugh and cry: another reason fans love it, and probably most players too. Sport gives a platform to emote, vent, release, on a regular basis, for fans as well as those directly involved.
From a foul or offside decision, to a disallowed goal or red card, the levels of vitriol can suggest there is nothing in the history of space and time to compare with the controversy, the enraging injustice. (Maybe something quite similar down the road last Tuesday, but anyway). And yet these controversies are largely forgotten by the next game a few days later, the canvas fresh for a new thing to get absolutely livid about.
The SwansAid community work provides a healthy antidote to this, a strong dose of perspective through local life outside the chaotic, beautiful and sometimes banal world of professional football. Premier League community programmes can only be good for all their recipients and participants: from seriously ill children in hospitals needing a lift in sprits, to special needs schools and local charities needing an injection of funds; to footballers needing a reality check.
With the great wealth enjoyed by most Premier League clubs comes a degree of social responsibility. All clubs have equivalent community programmes, thanks in part to Premier League schemes like ‘Creating Chances’ and the PLPFA Community Fund. Individually easy to follow through social media, collaborations usually concern education, community cohesion, health and sports participation.
“In the last three years the PLPFA Community Fund has invested £12.9m into 53 innovative projects run by club community departments and foundations which has led to the creation of 249 new jobs.
The work has involved 157,122 participants and has also led to 1,683 accreditations.”
It probably didn’t have the whole team arguing about who attended the visit on a dank mid-January afternoon, but witnessing first-hand the lifesaving work of the Swansea airbase certainly gave a powerful impression of Swansea City Football Club at work in the community.
Let’s hope the impact of these programmes continues to reach far and wide for a long time to come.
More WAA posts on this blog:
– Inspirational Elain helps launch new lifesaving equipment
– Model behaviour
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