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The Thrill of Football: Understanding the Mental Health Benefits of Watching Matches

Errolie Sermaine 5th July 2024

Football, often hailed as the world’s most popular sport, captivates millions of fans globally. The excitement, drama, and unity found within the game offer a unique blend of entertainment and emotional engagement. This fascination is especially pronounced during major tournaments like the one happening right now, the UEFA European Championship (EURO’s), where national pride and competitive spirit are on full display. So, as we ride the EURO 2024 rollercoaster, let’s explore why people enjoy watching football matches and how this experience contributes positively to mental wellbeing.

Football matches are a spectacle of raw emotion and unpredictable outcomes. The thrill of a goal scored in the dying minutes, or the heartbreak of a missed penalty creates a dramatic narrative that keeps fans on the edge of their seats. This emotional rollercoaster is a significant reason why people are drawn to the sport and tournaments like the EURO’s amplify these emotions, with high stakes and intense national rivalries adding layers of excitement.

For many, whether playing or watching, football provides an escape from the routine of daily life. The ninety minutes of a match offer a complete immersion into a world where anything can happen. Fans experience a wide range of emotions, from joy and relief to frustration and despair, often within a single game. This emotional engagement creates a sense of being alive and fully present, offering a temporary respite from personal worries and stresses. The intense focus on the game allows fans to momentarily forget their personal worries, mindfully immersing themselves in the action which can be refreshing and rejuvenating, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Football is inherently a social sport. Watching matches, whether at home, in a pub, or at the stadium, often involves gathering with friends, family, or fellow fans. This sense of community and shared experience is a core aspect of why people love the sport which promotes mental health through increased social interaction. During EURO 2024, the collective experience of watching games together will be more pronounced, with fans uniting in support of their national teams. Engaging with others, whether through lively discussions or shared celebrations, strengthens social bonds and can reduce feelings of loneliness.

The camaraderie among fans fosters a sense of belonging and connection. In an increasingly fragmented world, football provides a rare opportunity for people to come together and share a common passion. This social aspect is crucial for mental wellbeing, as it helps reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Being part of a larger community, even temporarily, can significantly enhance one’s sense of happiness and satisfaction.

The sense of routine and anticipation associated with following a football season or tournament can provide structure and meaning to one’s life. Having something to look forward to, such as a EURO 2024 match, can boost mood and motivation. The rituals and traditions surrounding match days can also create a comforting sense of continuity and normalcy. Football also offers opportunities for positive emotional experiences – the joy of seeing your team win, the excitement of a thrilling match, and the sense of achievement when discussing the game with others all contribute to a positive emotional state. These positive emotions can counterbalance the challenges of everyday life, promoting overall mental wellbeing.

Football is often referred to as “the beautiful game” due to its simplicity and elegance. The skill, creativity, and athleticism displayed by players are a joy to watch. The strategic depth of the game, with its intricate plays and tactical battles, appeals to those who appreciate the intellectual side of sports. During the EURO’s, fans have already witnessed some of the best talents in the world, making the matches even more captivating. The aesthetic pleasure derived from watching a well-executed pass, a stunning goal, or a brilliant save is a significant draw for fans. This appreciation for the artistry of football enhances the viewing experience, making it not just a game but a form of gladiatorial entertainment that combines athletic prowess with creativity.

Major tournaments like the EURO’s can stir a deep sense of national pride and identity. Supporting one’s national team creates a powerful bond between individuals and their country and this patriotic fervour is a key element of the excitement surrounding the EURO’s. Fans are not only cheering for their team but also celebrating their culture and heritage and this connection to a larger national identity can have positive effects on mental wellbeing by providing individuals with a sense of purpose and belonging, contributing to their overall happiness. The collective joy and celebration following a national team’s victory can foster a sense of unity and positivity that transcends the sport itself.

The allure of football lies in its ability to evoke strong emotions, create social connections, and provide aesthetic pleasure. The EURO 2024 tournament exemplifies these qualities, bringing fans together in a celebration of sport and community. So, as you cheer for your team, remember that rather than just providing entertainment value, watching football has significant mental wellbeing benefits including stress relief, emotional engagement, social bonding and reduced feelings of isolation. As fans gear up for the next big EURO’s match, they are not only enjoying the beautiful game but also nurturing their mental health and wellbeing.

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Author Biography:

Errolie Sermaine is a BACP and NCS Accredited Counsellor and Clinical Supervisor. Since qualifying she has run a successful private practice and worked for a variety of organisations. She is also a fully qualified teacher and trainer with a wealth of experience of designing and delivering a huge a range of courses. Passionate about training counsellors, she has been the Clinical Supervisor for several Professional Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling courses, as well as the Designated Safeguarding Lead and Curriculum Manager for an Outstanding adult education provider.
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Please note that all beliefs, views and opinions expressed within guest writer articles are solely those of the guest writer and do not reflect the beliefs, views and opinions of London School of Counselling, this website or its affiliates.
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