Man v Fat: Showing excess weight the red card

By Sean Webster 

MANvFAT football is an innovative and popular approach for encouraging overweight men to improve their health and well-being, where it’s not just scoring on the pitch that gets results.  

It’s open to men aged 18 or over who have a BMI of 27.5 or higher and are looking to lose weight. New members are assigned to teams, and all skill and fitness levels encouraged, even if you have not kicked a ball in years, as the emphasis is on being part of an encouraging, supportive network. 

“We’re here to support all players to achieve a healthier lifestyle whilst having a laugh and enjoying the beautiful game. You’re not on your own – it’s an inclusive community with a team spirit, all reaching for a common goal on and off the pitch,” says Rotherham coach, Colan Leung.  

Before each weekly match, players are weighed and submit their fitness and dietary progress to the coaches. Using an app, like MyFitnessPal, is the modern way of doing this, but keeping a paper journal is just as effective.  

The matches are seven-a-side played on 3G/4G pitches with roll-on/roll-off subs for up to 11 players per squad. Played in a friendly, competitive spirit, the games consist of two 14-minute halves refereed by qualified officials. 

While each team is eager to succeed on the pitch, opposition teams are regarded as kindred spirits. There is respect and understanding for the club’s ethos to achieve a common goal, and as a result the games are played with a great deal of encouragement and banter.  

Where else could you find fixtures like Porkvale V Mighty Pudding, and AFC Satsuma V Fatalanta? Everyone embraces and acknowledges the challenge, knowing they are working hard towards a happier, healthier self.  

In addition to the match results, bonus goals are given for health and fitness gains of each person on the team. Team could get up to five additional goals based on how many players in the team lose weight that week, one goal for any player losing weight for three consecutive weeks, and three goals for any player achieving a five or ten percent weight loss milestone. 

If a player is injured, they can still help their team gain bonus goals by attending the weigh-in. After all the stats are gathered and calculated, the final score for each match can be determined. 

While many are tucking into a biriyani and a bottle of wine at the end of the week, the MANvFAT matches are kicking off under the hazy floodlights of Parkgate Astro, Rotherham. On a fresh Friday evening in February, Fatburn Rovers defeated Borussia Doughnuts 1-0 in an exciting end-to-end match. But after calculating each team’s bonus goals, the final score was Fatburn Rovers 7 – 5 Borussia Doughnuts. 

Player/manager of Fatburn Rovers, Chris Valentine, is one of the thousands of MANvFAT success stories nationwide.  

Fatburn Rovers manager, Chris Valentine, who has shed more than half his body weight

“Before joining, I’d reached 24 stone and would get out of breath taking a walk or getting in the car. MANvFAT gave me the shove I needed and has become an integral part of my life for the last six years,” Chris says.  

Having since shed more than half his body weight, Chris adds: “My top tip is to attach a picture of your family on the food cupboards. Every time I went for a snack, I saw them first and reconsidered.” 

Around 90 percent of players become healthier and fitter after just 14 weeks. A large part of MANvFAT’s success is down to encouraging social interaction—something women do brilliantly, yet men traditionally find harder. It is incredibly refreshing to hear men share fitness and healthy eating tips and open up about their weight control challenges.  

Throughout the week, daily wins, empowering stories, and wholesome recipes are shared via Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Members also have access to an exclusive online area called The Dugout to track their progress. It offers recipes, webinars, and other resources to keep motivation soaring high. Well-deserved trophies and medals are awarded at the end of the season for all the effort and perseverance shown. 

“I’m a strong believer that the things we really want, require us to step outside of our comfort zone. MANvFAT is a great way to do this socially as well as physically in order to achieve a collective goal in becoming a better version of ourselves,” says Sheffield coach, Tom Crothers. 

Fatburn Rovers who play in the Rotherham Man v Fat league

In contrast to its members’ waistlines, MANvFAT football has expanded since it launched in 2016. There are now over 170 FA-affiliated MANvFAT clubs across the UK with a new club launching in Barnsley on Tuesday 14th March.  

Leagues in the Aroundtown area are played at: 

Barnsley (Tuesday 8-9pm) Honeywell Sports Village, Honeywell Campus, Honeywell Lane, Barnsley, S751BP 

Sheffield (Tuesday 8-10pm) St George’s Park Westfield, Moss Way, Sheffield, S20 8FA. 

Rotherham (Friday 7-9pm) Parkgate Astro, School Lane, Parkgate, Rotherham, S62 6FH. 

Comparable in price to a typical monthly gym subscription (£28.50), MANvFAT might be the inspiration you need to get off the couch, grab your boots, and get healthier and happier in 2023.  

More details can be found on their website