Recently several sources reported an alarming story: a young Dutch football player, called Mohamed Ihattaren was reported missing. Mohamed, 19, was quickly found, but is now considering retirement from football, at an age where most football players just start their professional careers. Ever since signing for Juventus on the last day of 2021 Summer Transfer window and subsequently being loaned to Sampdoria, Mohamed had weight and attitude issues. After asking for leave to visit home, he just went silent.
What has led to this? He suffers from depression, following the death of his father, similar to what Adriano went through in the middle of 2000’s, an event that heavily contributed to an early end to his career. The world was different then, depression and mental health issues weren’t part of everyday conversation, and athletes especially, were pressured to silently cope and perform to their best physical ability. Footballers are under enormous pressure to daily perform to their best ability, some of them at a very fragile and early stage in human development. Their bodies and minds are extremely stressed, which also contributes to physical injuries. Those injuries are on occasion career-ending and not everyone can handle it.
We all know now that disregarding those issues is not only an inhumane action but also a costly professional mistake. A suffering footballer will underperform and hurt the team. Atalanta even decided to not play Josip Ilicic at the end of the 2019-20 campaign, after he got COVID19 and fell into a depression, in a city that already suffered so much during the pandemic. And so, it looks like football world is finally starting to realize the extent of mental health’s importance. For instance, Leonardo Bonucci has been employing a motivational coach, Alberto Ferrarini, for years, to hone his composure and competitiveness. Liverpool, Arsenal, and countless other clubs have been employing psychologists for maintaining the mental health of their players and for evaluating the club’s transfers. Stari has been employing a team of psychologists for those reasons at our club in Georgia, FC Dila Gori. We provide a supportive environment, especially for young foreign players that we have discovered, and who play far from home and family. It is of a paramount importance for us to help our players with their winning mentality and sound minds.
Following the Tokyo Olympics, Simon Biles is a symbol for a modern approach – it’s ok to feel not ok, no matter if you are an average Joe, or a professional athlete, followed by millions. And with those issues been talked openly about and more efforts done, one can hope that cases like Ihattaren will become rare to non-existent. Let’s take a better care of people who bring us joy.