Mental Health in Football

Mental Health
Image Credit: Matt West/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

-Bill Shankly

Football is the game we all know and love. Most people use it as a way to escape their personal problems in life, while some people just love the sport and watch or play it for their satisfaction. Whichever category you fall in, you’ve probably criticized players, managers or even backroom staff before. This article will give an insight on why criticism is welcomed but explain why more consideration must be given to players’ mental health. 

Why write this article?

I was viewing one of my favorite YouTube channels one day and they had a caller who enlightened everyone on the stream about fans’ lack of consideration for players’ mental health. This triggered a series of thoughts that caused me to plan and write this article to spread awareness on this serious matter. 

We all struggle with mental health issues at some point in our lives. However, some people unfortunately struggle with it more severely than others. Players are human beings, which means that they too, suffer with personal and mental issues. 

The Social Media Effect

In the words of the famous Mike Tyson,

“Social media made you all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it.”

The world revolves around Social Media and the internet. On average, 59% of the world’s population use Social Media and it’s only going to get larger in the coming months and years. In fact, I’m publishing this article through the use of the internet and social media so I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. However, it enables cowardly people to hide behind their profile pictures and send out abuse to other individuals. 

In the 2020 Euros Finals, Bukayo Saka, 19 at the time, stepped up to take the last penalty in the shootout. If he scored, it would have gone into sudden death, but if he missed, Italy would have won the match and the competition. He unfortunately missed and his comments and DM’s were filled with fiendish racial abuse. The fans were understandably furious and hurt at the time because this was England’s first finals appearance in any major tournament since 1966. But for your anger to turn into racial abuse is absolutely inhumane and unacceptable. 

Image Credit: Getty Images

Luckily Bukayo has mental resilience and a courageous character because the negativity could’ve severely hindered his development. Put yourself in his position. Nineteen years of age and you took the pressure of taking the last penalty in the final. You missed and when you thought you would receive support, thousands of people abuse you because of your identity. Though many people supported the Arsenal starboy during his hardship, it’s always hard to ignore and overcome negativity. 

Criticism vs Abuse

The objective of football is to win games and simultaneously win trophies. Though they want to, fans know that it is virtually impossible to win every game. Each season, you must lose or draw some games. However, what fans do expect from each game is 100% effort. Effort matched with quality is perfect, effort matched with a bad performance is understandable, but no effort and no quality is deemed unacceptable and will result in criticism. 

Criticism was, is and will always be a part of the game and everything in life. After a bad game, it’s ok for fans to voice their opinions about your performance, whether it be the team or some individuals. Similarly, if a waiter gets your order wrong you’ll inform them about it in a respectful way. Or if a web designer messes up your design you’ll tell them about their mistake and expect it to be rectified. 

Abuse on the other hand, is unnecessary and displeasing. Footballers have their personal problems as well. Yes, like any other occupation, they’re expected to turn up and get the job done, but sometimes it’s impossible to focus on the task ahead when you’re going through a rough patch. 

Banter Aside

Banter is an important part of football’s culture. We all make jokes and have a laugh with our friends when our respective teams lose or drop points. Football is a game that brings out people’s emotions and feelings in an indescribable way. So removing banter or jokes would be removing the true essence of the game. 

Image Credit: Kieran Cleeves/PA Wire


Some of us hold footballers to a higher regard than the average human being. However, they’re humans as well. They have families, friends and hobbies just like us. They suffer with problems that vary from mental problems like home sickness due to excessive traveling to physical problems like injuries which also has a negative mental effect on them. 

I ask that we be more considerate about footballers and their mental health. Criticism is an essential part of the game and it keeps players going, but abuse has no positive effect on anyone. 

Let’s continue to support our teams and players and expect great things from them on the pitch. Criticize them when they’ve done wrong but always remember; they’re humans too. 

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