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The Mental Health Of A Professional Footballer – Our Obsession Is Their Burden

November 12, 2009


There is very little sympathy in general for the ‘plight’ (if you could call it that) for the modern professional footballer.

Incredibly well paid. Material possessions beyond our wildest dreams. Greatest job in the world. Stunning woman on arm. Does it get much better?

Well, not if you are the playboy type. The one who loves the cash and all the bling you could carry. But what if you are slightly more sensitive? What about if you are of a nervous disposition? Or what about if you suffer from mental illness?

In modern British society, it is slowly but surely being accepted that depression is a major human condition. For years we would all use the term to describe our feelings when we are all a bit on the low side…maybe work was crap, or you’d had a row with your partner, you didn’t win the lottery or the like. However, our understanding of the crippling implications of such a disease (because that is what it is) has come to the fore mainly through the increased understanding of the mind, and the fact that we ALL know someone suffering with it…genuinely suffering.

However, it appears that understanding stops when it comes to the realm of the professional footballer

The tragic death of Robert Enke highlights so many things that we all wish to turn a blind eye to. The obsession with celebrity culture, topped up with our desire to witness the ‘soap opera’ lifestyles of the rich and famous, has meant that the well being of the mind of the player has been totally overlooked. We perceive that they are all thick. That they don’t have any emotions that stretch beyond celebrating a goal, or shagging their next nightclub conquest. We think that with all that cash…and fame…and glory…that there is zero chance of being depressed. That they are immune to it somehow.

Despite the fact that their sporting abilities have put them on an undeserved pedestal normally reserved for movie stars (who hardly deserve it either!) the truth is that they are as human as you and I. The same problems. The same issues. Robert Enke’s daughter died. It must have been crushing, especially for a man with depression already diagnosed. Maybe that train was the only way he saw his problems to be solved?? There will be plenty of people that will say ‘well if ya feel your depressed go see a doctor or something, and sort yourself out!’ Of course, those sort of statements show a lack of empathy and intelligence. But there will be plenty reading this thinking exactly that.

It is difficult for us to understand the pressures that football puts on the people whose job it actually is..and i include managers in that as well. At a match, we have not an ounce of interest in ‘how they feel’ We want them to kick the ball forward and stick it in the net…thus allowing us to celebrate wildly in the stands and pubs, and sing generally disgusting songs that we wouldn’t normally do in the street. Yes I’m a culprit. I’m one of those. But outside of that stadium and the sport, i think we need to have an elevated appreciation of what these men go through. Yes there will always be an Ashley Cole round the corner, with his sexy Geordie missus castigating our souls with another pound of flesh and Sun headlines. That will always exist because millions buy into it. But if you are like me, you will have little interest in any of that….WAGS, dentist chairs, roastings, red top exclusives. I prefer to just let these guys do their job and then go home.

Maybe if we all paid a little less interest in these peoples lives, that they to could embrace something a little more normal….they appreciate what you and i do. Love, family, hope. We would all love a Ferrari, but just because they have one (or three) do we have to own a piece of their lives?  The correct answer is no.

Like this article? Click here for more at ViewFromTier3 –Rob’s blogzine

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2009 5:13 pm

    Very true that we don’t care about how they feel. Sadly it continues to happen, and one of my favourite players when he first came out was Sebastien Deisler. He’s come out with a book, that talks about his battles with depressions but at least he can talk about it now.

    I just wonder how many of these other players with depression are out there, especially when the likes of Real Madrid are buying big stars and shunting out those who served them well before.

  2. shallowgirl permalink
    November 17, 2009 8:23 am

    Really good article. Very thought-provoking. The pressure must be immense for some players. I tend to think the ones leading the soap opera lifestyles are possibly too thick to worry about things too much and just get on with it. After all, they don’t have to live like that. I just don’t understand the public’s interest in these peoples private lives, it’s really rather pathetic. The more intelligent players, i.e. Scholes, Giggs etc stay out of the limelight and are the ultimate professionals.

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