Depression in football: when speech is free

Uend of career difficult to assume, an injury that takes a long time away from the field or even a loss of starting position: the explanations for a depression in the world of professional football are numerous. However, few players had previously dared to speak up to open up and tell their discomfort.

But, more and more, and in particular in recent months, we see football stars confide in this long taboo subject, such as Neymar or Paul Pogba. This Sunday, beIN Sports is broadcasting the documentary Silence, I fall, directed by John Ferreira and Julien Grès, which looks back on four cases of footballers who had to deal with this situation.

38% of footballers concerned

Among them, we find Robert Pirès, who sweeps away the cliché heard for many years on the paradox of an extremely well paid person who could not express his anxieties. Money doesn’t always buy happiness: according to a study by FIFPro, 38% of footballers show symptoms of depression or anxiety. The documentary is at the initiative of Damien Perquis, a former defender of Sochaux and Saint-Étienne, who suffered a serious head injury and a difficult recovery.

Recently, in L’Équipe, Thierry Henry wanted to challenge public opinion on the case of Neymar who often shared his mental state. “Neymar has often spoken in his last interviews about his well-being, about the pressure… So my first thought was: ‘Is he good?’ It wasn’t “he doesn’t make little bridges, sombreros anymore, he doesn’t accelerate anymore”. He speaks but do we hear him? He asks for help, there are things going on in his head, like any human being”, concludes the former Arsenal striker.

“I started crying on the pitch”

The beIN Sports documentary focuses precisely on this question: the need for players to speak up and not hide. Yoan Cardinale, former goalkeeper of OGC Nice who is now unemployed, takes the floor and thus expresses his regrets for having kept all his thoughts and emotions to himself. After losing his starting spot in goal, the goalkeeper had withdrawn into himself, to the point of having a foul mood on a daily basis and causing a break in his couple.

“You can be the strongest man in the world, hiding your discomfort is hard. I started crying on the pitch… tears of nerves,” Cardinale said. With hindsight, he insists on the need to speak and thus avoid an isolation that is difficult for a player to assume.

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Families who suffer, this is also the situation in which Patrick Guillou found himself. The beIN Bundesliga consultant recounts his suicide attempts and the consequences they had on those around him, undoubtedly the strongest testimony in the documentary. The former Saint-Étienne player does not hesitate to come back to this very complicated passage in his life, hoping that it will help more timid players to open up in turn: “When you are in depression, you can fall even lower. And you say to yourself “go ahead, go see! Hurt yourself!” By expressing their woes frankly and openly, the protagonists of Silence, I’m falling participate in the liberation of speech on a subject that is still very sensitive in the world of football.

Depression in football: when speech is free