By Andy Hirst
A football team set up in Huddersfield to help dads who have suffered the anguish of losing a baby is playing in a tournament in the town this Sunday.
Sands United FC Huddersfield now has around 35 players who are all men who have lost a baby shortly before, during or after birth.
The Huddersfield team is playing a tournament against teams from South Yorkshire, Hull and Grimsby at Millers Oils High Performance Complex – previously known as Canalside Training Complex – 509 Leeds Road, Huddersfield, HD2 1YJ. Huddersfield won the trophy last year.
The day is a fundraiser for stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands (https://www.sands.org.uk/) which raises money to try to understand why so many babies die, to improve maternity and neonatal care and to provide better bereavement care and support as it varies in quality across the UK.
The football tournament will feature a food truck, a bar, an ice cream van, a sweets stall and several inflatables. Most of these suppliers are providing a cut of their profits to the charity. There will also be a raffle.
The first game will kick off at 11am with two games running at a time. Games are 15 minutes each way with five minutes at half-time and a 10-minute break in between each game. There will be five games to complete the table and a final will then be played to decide the winner.
Organiser Alex Walmsley said: “Bring your picnic blankets or chairs along with your cheering voices, keep your fingers crossed for the right weather and let’s have a great day for all of the family.”
Sands United FC was set up in Huddersfield by Alex in March 2020 at Soccer City in Waterloo.
Alex and wife Olivia, 27, have suffered three baby losses in the early stages of pregnancy and Alex’s mum had also lost a baby years ago. Alex and Olivia, who live in Heckmondwike, have since had a son, Toby, born in March 2020 and their other son is seven-year-old Isaac.
The Sands United FC Huddersfield players have their babies’ names on their shirts and Alex has four stars on his.
“We have so much pride wearing our shirts,” said Alex. “The football team is for anyone who has lost a baby or has been touched by it. Football is a great way for us to get talking.”
There are now Sands football teams across the UK after the first one was set up in Northampton in 2018.
* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.