As a footballer, you should not give the impression that you are insecure

One suffered from fame and criticism in the media. The other was mocked on a TV show every week. Another became the backbone of the coach. Some suffered in silence and only a few received psychological help from the club. In the run-up to the new football season, Norwegian Refugee Council With seven (former) professional players on the importance of mental toughness in their sport.

FIFA launched a campaign last week to draw attention to mental illness in professionals. According to research by Fifpro, 23 percent of active professional footballers have trouble sleeping, 9 percent suffer from depression and 7 percent suffer from anxiety. These percentages are higher among former professionals.

Last season, some famous players talked about their mental health. Such as former international Gregory van der Wiel and FC Utrecht player Willem Janssen and Ricardo Quechna of ADO Den Haag. “For over a year now, I’ve been dealing with panic attacks and anxiety, which started when I was feeling cold at home in Los Angeles,” Van der Weel wrote in a statement. “At that point I didn’t know what was wrong with me and thought I was having a heart attack.” His words sparked a national debate.

“It’s amazing that more and more players are revealing their mental issues during their careers, as gymnast Simone Biles did during the Olympics,” says Bart Heofing, chief athletic trainer in Arizona. “This removes taboos and ensures that footballers can talk about it among themselves and with experts.” He says FIFA’s campaign should be viewed in that light.

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Heuvingh also goes to a training camp in AZ. “People sometimes ask if I have enough to do in a week like this. But they don’t ask a physiotherapist. While it’s the same operations to improve your performance, but in the head.”

In AZ, Heuvingh starts with players as young as twelve. He says prevention is the crux of the problem. In presentations, I often use a Frederick Douglass quote:It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men“.” Footballers don’t talk about their feelings easily, he says, so there’s no point waiting in your office for them to come in. “Precisely because I am always there, I can motivate them among themselves, compete with them. I give them a book, organize meetings for the whole team, and share articles via the app.”


Since the pronouncements of celebrities such as van der Wiel, more and more footballers have begun knocking on her door, says performance coach and sports psychologist Avke van de Wou, who plays for KNVB. “In psychology we call this ‘normalization’: finding your thoughts, feelings and behavior normal in light of your circumstances. Athletes experience this, for example, when they hear that other athletes are experiencing the same thing in similar circumstances, such as feeling competition tension and pressure to perform” . She saw it in Willem Jansen’s YouTube video, she says, which appeared after van der Weel’s statement. “It was a relief that so many people were affected by this,” he says.

And that’s not surprising, she says, because just checking. with a lot of Big life events Which causes stress to the average person, professional footballers have to deal with: a change of job, a move (often to another country with a different culture), a sudden change in salary. “And then they are often boys of eighteen and nineteen, an age when most young people still live with their parents.”

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Narrated by former international Edson Braverhead Norwegian Refugee Council He regrets that clubs would rather invest money in a personal body trainer than a personal trainer for the mind. “Both are important, because young talents in particular often have no idea what kind of world they are entering.” Former ADO defender Gianni Zwifferlon: “As a footballer you are constantly evaluated. Are you training well? Do you pass the ball tightly? “We’re watching you, my friend.” Dominic Janssen, just back from the Olympics in Japan: “One day you get a lot of respect, the next you get pushed aside. In the meantime, the pressure is building to present yourself well on social media. But what’s good? Is it okay? If you distance yourself from pleasing others?”

Dominic Janssen
“The game is also getting more difficult off the field.”

Noun: Dominic Jansen (26)
Country of birth: Holland
He is: Professional footballer at Wolfsburg Football Club

“I’ve been someone who has made people happy for most of my life. I didn’t dare say ‘no’ and I didn’t set any limits. I didn’t learn to stand up for myself.

“My parents divorced when I was 15. There was tension in the house. I subconsciously carried that tension with me. Football felt like a way out. But when I lay in my bed at night, the feelings came.

“Sooner or later you will start to swell, which happened to me when I was 20. I played at Arsenal and became a snitch with a few other players. If the team is not going well, the coach personally spoke to us about it. It was not Not only exhausted, but also made me feel lonely. As if I were a FIFA puppet. It made me doubt: Do I still want this?

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“I started talking to a psychologist. Only then did I realize how angry I was. And also: how scared I was to express that anger. I associated anger with screaming, biting, scratching and hitting. Something I should stay away from. I didn’t talk about anger either.

Amber Webster

 "Freelance zombie fanatic. Devoted web advocate. Analyst. Writer. Coffee fanatic. Travelaholic. Proud food aficionado."

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