Key Arsenal figures including Mikel Arteta and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have spoken with Prince William about the importance of mental health - with this season's FA Cup renamed to promote awareness on the subject.
Gunners head coach Arteta, academy boss Per Mertesacker, club captain Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin joined HRH The Duke of Cambridge on a Zoom call to discuss the implications of the coronavirus pandemic, the role football can play in tackling men's mental health and how the north London giants have been supporting the club’s coaching staff and players, including those at academy level, and the wider community.
Arteta stressed it was important to create a safe environment for his squad to be empowered to speak openly about their concerns and issues without feeling judged, or fearful of losing their place in the team.
"This is what I've been trying to do over the last 12 weeks,” the Arsenal boss explained, adding: “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” while Aubameyang explained: "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."
This season's FA Cup final, scheduled to take place on August 1, will be dedicated to changing the perceptions of mental health with the showpiece event renamed the Heads Up FA Cup Final – in a partnership between Heads Together and The FA that harnesses the influence and popularity of football to change the conversation on mental health.
During the call, The Duke said of the Heads Up FA Cup Final: “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.”
Arsenal’s stars chatted to Prince William about the importance of talking about mental health, as well as the significance of the FA Cup final, sponsored by Emirates, being dedicated to the campaign.
On the renaming of FA Cup, Arteta said: “This is a great gesture from Emirates to make a statement on the importance of mental health.”
The season-long Heads Up campaign has been visible across all levels of football in England throughout the course of the 2019-20 season, and supports the important work which is already taking place across the UK to end the stigma surrounding mental health, and strives to raise awareness, spark conversation and signpost to support.