Woodford Green football team for recovering heart attack patients is an ‘unbelievable success’

Two Touch FC.

Two Touch FC. - Credit: Archant

Recovering heart patients who can often be left feeling helpless, depressed and anxious after surgery are benefiting from a pioneering rehabilitation programme set up by two friends.

Two Touch FC.

Two Touch FC. - Credit: Archant

Three years ago, Colin Gilbert, of Mansfield Road, Wanstead, and Brian Coleman, of Epping, founded a five-a-side football team, Two Touch FC, and an accompanying fitness programme for patients with a variety of heart complaints.

The dedicated pair, who now support about 40 members, said they have seen a “remarkable” difference among individuals, many of whom have not played the sport since they were at school.

Nurse Brian, 55, who has worked in the cardiac rehabilitation unit at Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone, for more than 20 years, said the group can get “very competitive”.

“I see so many patients who feel stressed, depressed and anxious after suffering a heart attack who need something positive to help elevate their mood. Many see their illness as a weakness and no longer see themselves as they used to be.

“Football can be a hook to help change people’s lives. It took about a year to get off the ground as we had to make sure it was safe.”

Both Brian and Colin, a Healthwise project co-ordinator at Walthamstow Leisure Centre, hope to get the Football Association on board and see the scheme introduced across the country.

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Brian added: “Many patients end up feeling helpless and socially isolated, and to take part in a activity like football helps them feel normal again.

“Some members even bring their children along to show how they are getting on with their lives.

“Watching football has always helped people with disabilities feel normal and included; it is a powerful thing.”

Colin, 62, said: “It is important for people with cardiac problems to continue exercising, many give up after the first three months.

“Me and Brian were a bit wary at first as it was such a unique programme but we couldn’t comprehend how successful it has been.

“We want heart patients to realise that it’s not all bad and that they can get fitter.”

Team member, Farooq Mohammed, 44, of Barkingside, joined last year after undergoing a coronary angioplasty.

He said: “After a routine medical check-up I found I had three blocked arteries and was a walking heart attack waiting to happen.

“The previous rehabilitation scheme I was on was boring so when Brian told me about this one I thought it was fantastic.”

He added: “It is like a support group and there is so much camaraderie.”

n Two Touch FC meet every Wednesday from 6-7pm at Woodford County High School for Girls, High Road, Woodford Green.