YOU will more than likely have heard of the phrase “money is the root to all evils” at least once at some point in your life and it seems as though for some footballers that can really ring true.
The recent news of Everton’s Aaron Lennon reportedly having a mental breakdown was a sad occurrence, but important because it brought to the light the question: Are footballers actually happy with their lives?
30-year-old winger Lennon was taken to hospital “for assessment” after police were called to Salford on Sunday. There are currently major concerns regarding the state of his mental health. It was a harsh reminder to footballer’s critics that at the end of the day, WE ARE ALL HUMAN.
Let’s face it we’ve all had that dream of scoring in front of 30,000 fans week in week out and earning mega bucks and whizzing around town in the latest top of the range car, but the sad reality of it all is that many footballers aren’t actually enjoying themselves.
Former Tottenham full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto once famously claimed that he did not like football, he didn’t watch it or play it in his spare time. He simply played it because it was his job and he was good at it.
Back in 2014, former Burnley defender Clarke Carlisle attempted to kill himself by driving towards a lorry on the A64 near York. Despite suffering internal bleeding, a broken rib and a few cuts and bruises he miraculously survived the incident and lived to tell the tale. He blamed retirement from football as the driving force behind his suicide attempt and claims that he became so involved in the sport that he did not know what to do with himself after it was all over.
Then there are those, who unfortunately went one step further.
Justin Fashanu became the first black player to be sold for £1 million when he moved from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest in August of 1981. He also became the first player to openly announce that he was gay in 1990, which of course brought on constant abuse from the “macho” members of the crowd.
That, along with controversy surrounding a 17-year-old in the USA who claimed that Fashanu had made inappropriate sexual advances towards him, led him into a deep depression. In May of 1998 he was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage in Shoreditch, London.
His death was a harsh lesson to those who mocked him for his sexuality, but has also in a way restricted today’s players who might be gay from coming out as they still fear that they will be judged for it.
German goalkeeper Robert Enke was a popular figure in his home nation having played for Borussia Monchengladbach and more predominantly for Hannover. He also had eight caps to his name for Germany and was known for being one of the best keepers in the Bundesliga.
It came to a shock to many football fans worldwide when, on the night of November 10 2009, Enke, who was 32 at the time, committed suicide when he stood in front of a regional express train at a level crossing in Neustadt. His widow, Teresa, later revealed that her husband had been suffering from depression for six years and was treated by a psychiatrist. After the death of his daughter Lara in 2006, he struggled to cope with the loss.
Nearly 40,000 attendees filled the AWD-Arena for his memorial service. Enke’s coffin, covered in white roses, was carried by six of his Hannover 96 teammates. He was then buried in Neustadt, next to his daughter’s grave.
Even more recently of course you have the death of Gary Speed, who was a well-beloved footballer in England and was Wales’ manager at the time.
He made 85 appearances for the Welsh national team and nearly 700 appearances for Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United. He was respected by so many of his peers and fans.
In November of 2011, just a day after he’d appeared on BBC One’s Football Focus, Speed’s wife had found his body hanged in the garage of their home. The true story behind his death remains a mystery to this day, but it is believed that the pressure of management took a toll on his marriage.
His death rocked the football world and opened us all up to the possibility that footballers were living their lives “too far away from reality”. These mentioned above were three players in three very different situations in their lives, but all needed some sort of help.
The extent of Aaron Lennon’s suffering is not currently clear to us as members of the public but it sure does bring back some dark memories of the footballing world.
It does make you wonder; what right do we have to be hurling abuse at players week in week out, when we might not know what they’re going through? They may be on ridiculous amounts of money, but they are still human beings like you and me. Here’s hoping Lennon gets the help he needs and returns to action soon enough.
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