This week, we are celebrating the 10th birthday of Two-Touch Athletic Football Club. The club, which meets in Woodford, provides accessible, fun, regular exercise for more than 80 cardiac patients who have completed a cardiac rehabilitation programme.
Six of the club’s members told us about the transformation the club has had made to their health and happiness.
Two-Touch Athletic Football Club was established in 2009 by Brian Coleman, senior Cardiac Rehabilitation Nurse Specialist at Barts Health, and Colin Gilbert of Kelmscott Leisure Centre. Their aim was to provide cardiac patients who had completed the cardiac rehabilitation programme a form of long-term exercise that was both accessible and fun. Brian felt that football would not only be an informal way of maintaining fitness but would provide Barts Health patients with an opportunity to meet others with the same conditions and to exercise safe in the knowledge that there are medical professionals in the room.
The team has grown over the last 10 years and now has more than 80 members that attend sessions in Woodford. Patients who have just finished cardiac rehabilitation start off by attending sessions on a Monday night, where they complete circuit training and play football and badminton. Once their fitness and confidence levels have improved, participants are invited to move to the Wednesday session where they play 5-aside football.
Over the years, Brian and Colin have arranged several matches pitting cardiac doctors, nurses and physiotherapists against their patients. Brian also took a group of patients to climb the O2 to raise money for the cardiac outpatients department at Whipps Cross.
Several of those who play in a Wednesday session are now also participating in challenge games in Chingford. The team travelled to Leeds in 2018 for a challenge game and had their first club holiday, to Italy, in July of this year.
Fitter and healthier than before
Following a heart attack or stroke, it can be difficult for patients to imagine themselves returning to a normal life. So they are often surprised by the positive impact of playing Two-Touch football.
Club member Suleyman Izzet described his experience. “I didn’t think I could win this fight and recover from my stroke. I felt I wasn’t going to be able to walk normally again. Then one day after visiting Whipps Cross Hospital for assessment of my condition I met Mr Brian Coleman and he told me about his Two-Touch rehabilitation program. I didn’t think his program would help me at all but I thought I would try it out. That Wednesday I went and joined the group and ever since I haven’t looked back. I’m not only now walking but I can run and play football. I have been with the group for six years now and I enjoy every minute of it.”
Norman Segal, who had a heart attack four years ago and has five stents across three arteries, is thankful that he has had the opportunity to attend the club which he says has given him the confidence to get back to a normal way of life. “I let everyone know I am fitter and healthier than before.”
Great bunch of lads, great banter
The peer support provided by club members to one another is another of its important qualities. George Impey, who had a triple bypass operation six years ago, explained, “a good reason for attending the football is the companionship with patients who have gone through similar heart problems. The football has brought together people of all nationalities and from all walks of life. We receive support from one another and have a laugh and chat about our problems. The group have become good friends so there is plenty of old fashioned Mickey-taking, but there is also plenty of support if someone is struggling on the night.”
“A great bunch of lads, great banter, good football, I absolutely love it!” said Jeremy Golding, who joined the club following corrective open-heart surgery at St Bartholomew’s hospital for his congenital heart defect.
Dave Hatt’s heart attack started while he was driving his taxi. He drove himself to hospital where he was soon in theatre being fitted with two stents. He joined Two-Touch AFC soon afterwards, and now trains three times a week and plays in tournaments. He says, “I have a group of friends numbering around 60 people including the lovely people who organise this in their spare time who we are immensely grateful to.”
Members of the club are full of gratitude for the work done by Brian and Colin, as well as Brian’s daughter Olivia (who also works for Barts Health), Saif, Farooq and John, who also help to run the club in a voluntary capacity.
Phil Jacobs, who joined the club following a cardiac arrest in 2016, sums up the sentiments of many in the club. “When you get a heart problem, you think your life is going to change. It will change, but it can change for the better as it has for me. None of this would have happened if not for Two-Touch AFC. So, a big thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
You can follow the club’s activity by following them on Twitter: @TwoTouchAFC