With the recent death of former footballer and Wale’s manager Gary Speed, we have been given a new insight in to the darker side of professional sports. But what is it that induces depression, and even suicide, in those whose lifestyles reflect the highest echelons of opulence and luxury?
It would be easy to believe that money and fame can function as some sort of problem-conquering panacea, yet such beliefs are far from the truth. Those who have admitted to suffering from depressive episodes range from such notable figures as Paul Gascoigne to Neil Lennon, with even Stan Collymore recently revealing the details of his own personal battle against ‘The Black Dog’.
…culminating in the deaths of several players.
More serious cases, however, have also been documented over the last ten years, arguably culminating in the deaths of several players. In 2009, Hannover 96 shotstopper Robert Enke threw himself in to the wake of an oncoming train, killing himself instantly. Hotly tipped to be Oliver Kahn‘s successor as the German nation’s number one Goalkeeper, his unexpected death was mourned by fans and players alike. Provoked, however, by the death of his young daughter three years earlier, such incidents highlight the genuine humanity of people so often deified by the media spotlight.
In 2010, another Goalkeeper, Dale Roberts, was found hung at his Higham Ferrer’s home in Northhamptonshire. The reason? No official statement was made as to why Roberts committed suicide, yet it was thought to have developed from allegations of his fiancee’s supposed affair with teammate Paul Terry. The brother of Chelsea and England captain John was soon transferred, thus increasing the media speculation surrounding the incident.
…certainly comes at a price.
Perhaps human beings, therefore, are not actually designed for the limelight at all. In the age of paparazzi and endless streams of unbridled information regarding the most initimate details of celebrities’ lives, fame and fortune most certainly comes at a price. In addition, consider that footballers have been pushed to the limit physically and mentally during their exceptionally short careers.
Injections, injuries and even steroids have all played a part in the downfall of modern footballers, thus fuelling the argument that we, as a society, push our athletes too far. In a 2005 BBC interview, former England starlet Paul Gascoigne revealed that his untimely retirement had, ‘ripped his heart out’. Many would feel fortunate to leave work in their mid thirties, enjoying a life of minor-celebrity and financial stability.
Image courtesy of Robert Enke