Mental Health No Longer Secret in Soccer Dressing Rooms |

Mental Health No Longer Secret in Soccer Dressing Rooms

William Kellogg
June 2, 2019
uk soccer

In his own words, this soccer Spurs soccer star opens up about his battle against depression.

“I couldn’t socialize, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I was ready to get into a fight with anybody.” Gareth Southgate and the Duke of Cambridge were among the small audience listening with intent as Danny Rose (Spurs soccer star) described the signs of his depression.

The event was aired on BBC One on Tuesday, and this event brought together personalities united by their interest in football; five current or former professionals and five amateurs (including the future king of England) – gathering to talk openly about depression and its effects.

Rose was the center of the discussion, and he made a real impact in the program, maybe because he is still at the peak of his career – still with everything to play for, not least in Madrid on 1 June. All you need to do is see Rose or watch him on the television, and you will know that you are seeing a man struggling with demons. It is brave of him not to wait until retirement before unburdening himself in public, choosing instead to lend himself as an example in a debate of great importance.

A former team-mate Jermaine Jenas, who was another professional present in the group, thought back to his days as a senior footballer in the Tottenham Hotspur dressing room and remembering the time young Danny approached him to say he always wanted to go back home to Doncaster the whole time. “As a team and as a club,” Jenas said, “we paid little or no attention to it.” Now he sees that homesickness as a sign of “something accumulating” and which later on developed into a feeling of “I think something is going on with me.”

The football pitch is a tasking environment – “a place where people can lose their heads” in Jenas’s words – but Rose’s current international manager is someone who has had his share of mental problems, and this had taught him the necessity of extending help to those trying to cope with adversity. When Gareth Southgate’s penalty was saved in the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany, he was left all by himself to deal with it. For years to come, he will always be that man that lost the penalty at a world cup. “I played 700 games, but I was always ‘that ordinary man.” Among other things, the experience taught him to tell his players not to be afraid of making mistakes.

There is something particularly distressing about a professional athlete – a member of a group whose operating term is “to play” – dealing with mental-health problems, whether it be a golfer disturbed by the putting yips, a boxer hitting the bottle or a footballer scared to try a risky pass. “They always think it’s just them,” Southgate says,” they never see it as commonplace, everybody has doubts about there performance levels, but the dressing room is just full of people who’ve different ways of hiding them. And it will only get better if athletes can share their pains and thoughts.

William Kellogg

William Kellogg is a veteran writer who's covered the subject of the intersection of technology, health and mental wellness for nearly two decades.

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