While we all love the beautiful game, its ugly side has surfaced on more than one occasion in recent times. The current generation of footballers has dominated the front pages almost as much as the back pages in recent times. And it cannot be a coincidence.
These are young and impressionable men that are thrust into the spotlight at a young age. While individuals cannot be excused for their actions, the prevalence of the problems at hand shows that more needs to be done by clubs and agents. Only then will starlets be positioned to make the right decisions and stay out of harm’s way.
Here are some areas where extra attention is needed.
Anybody that watched the Dele Alli interview with Gary Neville will know his is a complex case linked to childhood trauma. Still, the admission of sleeping tablet addiction was an eye-opener. Especially as it has been suggested that it is a widespread issue in soccer. Sleeping tablets are just one of the many substances that may be abused too.
Cases where diet pills and contaminated foods have been cited are very common. At least some are a cover-up for PEDs. Meanwhile, everything from alcohol to prescription drugs may be used for non-sporting reasons. Professional substance abuse treatment is the best response. And clubs should be quick to help players get the help they need.
Nevertheless, prevention is the best form of protection. Clubs, agents, teammates, and families should be familiar with the early signs. Likewise, encouraging players to understand the dangers and how it can impact their careers will play a significant role. Otherwise, the amount of time and money that players have can be a recipe for disaster.
Social Media Usage
Social media is a valuable tool that plays a valuable role in our lives. Young footballers that fall into Generation Z are particularly addicted to those platforms. However, they can be toxic environments. Frankly, soccer starlets are often the target. It’s not hard to understand how this could impact a player’s confidence on the field or overall mental health.
The most severe cases of racism, often after big matches, have been well documented. Frankly, it’s disgusting. In reality, though, it’s not just abuse from faceless accounts. Players are equally at risk of reading nasty words following a bad pass or a missed opportunity. Sometimes it will just be said in jest by football fans, but those words can take a toll.
It can plant the seeds of doubt in their performance and also introduce dark thoughts. To know that you are trending for negative reasons can only have negative impacts. It’s hard to ban players from social media. But clubs and educators must try to help players develop healthy relationships with platforms. Otherwise, their mental health will suffer.
Sports betting is big business, not least in football sponsorships. Logos from the world’s biggest betting firms are seen on kits, stadiums, TV commercials, and virtually everywhere you look. Despite this, players are strictly prohibited from gambling. This is due to potential conflicts of interest and match-fixing. And it extends to games they’re not involved in.
Frankly, it’s hard not to have some sympathy. Brentford’s Ivan Toney was recently banned for eight months despite being diagnosed a gambling addict. Even his own team is sponsored by Hollywoodbets, which highlights the severity of the problem. Not least because it is only the latest in a long list of cases.
Andros Townsend, Daniel Sturridge, Martin Demichelis, Matt Le Tissier, and Kieran Trippier are some of the names. Meanwhile, the likes of Paul Merson have documented their gambling struggles. While forcing people to sign up to GamStop and self-exclusion tools isn’t viable, clubs can at least encourage it.
Sexual misconduct is arguably the most controversial topic to discuss. After all, these are good-looking young men that are also rich and famous. It cannot be denied that some people look to exploit this for their own agendas. Still, it is clear that footballers could benefit from an education on what’s acceptable behavior as well as the dangers.
The Mason Greenwood case at Manchester United is a great example of the complexities. Meanwhile, across the city, the Benjamin Mendy case took over a year to complete. Elsewhere, there was the Gylfi Sigurdsson case while many others have surfaced across Europe and beyond.
Each case is unique and must be judged on its individual basis. Ultimately, though, there are no winners in these cases. Only losers. For that reason, making players aware of the fact that every move is under scrutiny is vital. Not least because the fallout of these cases can harm their careers and reputations, as well as the lives of victims.
A Lack Of Protection
Soccer stars earn big money. Naturally, this can make them a target for fraudsters. Whether it’s internet scams or businesspeople looking to take advantage doesn’t matter. Without the right financial advice, the threat of financial problems looms large. Not least because it is a short career. In truth, many footballers have ended up bankrupt.
On another note, criminals know when footballers are playing away. This often means that their properties are unoccupied. As such, they should be encouraged to add home security features and security teams. Otherwise, their homes, assets, and families could be at risk. The Aubameyang case at Barcelona was particularly harrowing.
A lack of protection could also relate to a lack of insurance, financial coverage, and safe investments. Very few people boast the skills or experience needed to build their wealth at the age of 19 or 20. For soccer players, though, there is no time to waste. On a side note, preparing for the future through coaching badges or business ventures is vital.
The Final Word
Soccer is an amazing sport that affords its stars the opportunity to enjoy fame, fortune, and a phenomenal lifestyle. However, it does come with significant risks. While it is ultimately down to the individual to make the right choices off the field as well as on it, the right support networks are key.
Football must do better.