As football is getting ready to return in the United Kingdom after being put on hold due to COVID-19, Prince William spoke with Arsenal players, Head Coach Mikel Arteta and Academy Manager, Per Mertesacker.
The main focus of the chat held through the Duke of Cambridge’s Heads Up campaign was about men’s mental health but they also made the announcement that this year’s Emirates FA Cup Final will be renamed the “Heads Up FA Cup Final” in support of the campaign.
“We’re going to really use the Final as a moment to promote good, positive mental health for everyone. It’s quite timely bearing in mind what we’ve all been through with this pandemic. I think there’s going to be, sadly, a lot of repercussions from this in society, not just in football, in terms of people’s mental health. Hopefully, the FA Cup can be a bit of a pivot that people can rally around,” Prince William said of the Aug. 1 event.
The topic then zoned in on mental health, particularly during the pandemic.
“You have to create a safe environment for them to be able to talk to you directly without feeling judged, or [worrying] whether that’s going to have consequences for them, whether they’re going to play or not, or my feelings towards them,” Areta noted about the players.
“This is what I’ve been trying to do over the last twelve weeks, by trying to talk individually so they can raise those feelings, their issues, and we can build the club culture that I want, which is based on respect.”
We’re going to use the #HeadsUpFACup Final as a moment to promote good, positive mental health for everyone.
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) June 11, 2020
Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang agreed, “I think the most important thing is to be next to them, to try to speak a lot with them, [and] to give them all the space they need for talking, because I think the best thing is to talk, and to discuss problems.”
Mertesacker then opened up about dealing with his mental health back when he was a player.
“I was not comfortable speaking with certain individuals because I thought I needed to be strong, resistant and resilient, and deal with any kind of circumstances,” he said. “Nowadays, there are more mechanisms than ever to start a conversation, and to give players tools to really cope with it.”
Heads Up, which falls under the umbrella of the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together, is a partnership with The FA “that harnesses the influence and popularity of football to change the conversation on mental health.”