Denilson’s struggles should be a lesson for all of us

I was very touched the other day to read an interview with the ex-Arsenal midfielder Denilson. Yet this week he spoke about how lonely he felt in English Football saying at times he was miserable.

He explains the surreal experience of performing in front of 60,000 people to then spending the rest of the week not talking to anyone.

It wouldn’t have helped the criticism he received, which at its kindest suggested he was being given too many chances.

It would be unfair to give a player a hard time if he broke his leg so why is your brain being ill any different?

This is a topic close to my heart and I do feel we have got better as a society of talking about mental health, yet some still need educating.

Only this season, Mustafi and Xhaka have spoken about how verbal abuse and trolls affected their mental state, yet I’m not sure people took that as serious as they should. Here is a man telling the world emotionally he’s struggling, and some were concerned more on if he should have been our captain or not. He did the right thing by speaking up so the club could offer him support accordingly.

Denilson was as young as 19 when he was experiencing this. Thankfully, the likes of Arsene Wenger and Gilberto Silva recognised his struggles, so took their time to support his social life in London.

We often think of footballers as having lots of money, living in big houses, driving fast cars – so what have they got to be sad about?

Why so many sports people, movie stars, rock stars, etc take their own lives is that they feel they will be judged for claiming depression when the outside think you have nothing to be depressed about. It doesn’t work like that. You can be surrounded by a hundred people but feel on your own. Love could all be all around, yet you feel worthless.

Many sports people will be vulnerable at the moment as they have lost their outlet, their routine, their escape, etc. I believe it’s hard for anyone to speak up.

If Denilson makes one person aware of the subject, then that’s his greatest contribution. Luckily, Mr Wenger noticed he needed his help away from the pitch, but some don’t have that.

With the world in self isolation some are forced to be alone. Please think about those people. Take the time to message or ring someone you haven t heard from in a while.

Social media is a dangerous place. Think about what you are writing. Words have meaning. What might be banter to you could impact someone’s life.

Even on here let’s be kind to each other.

Reading Denilson’s story reminds me …. we have to be better at looking after each other.

Dan Smith


  1. 👍👍👍 Anyone can suffer from MH!! Mental health issues aren’t always obvious, so one just assumes that person is alright and has to just ‘pull yourself together’ but it doesn’t work like that! I feel so sad for all the people out there suffering from this horrible illness.. and these strange times have made it even worse. Some people rely on a friendly face or someone to talk to… but covid-19 has put a stop to that.
    This is really grim, but I can see suicides rocketing……

    Excellent once again, Dan 👏

  2. I am fortunate not to have suffered in this way, but even I have had a couple of little mini wobbles during the lockdown. For those who do have mental health issues this could be devastating.

    I know not everyone cares for the Royals but William and Harry have helped to break the ice, and other sports stars are now beginning to realise that it is important to open up and not just implode alone. There is at least a growing acceptance that mental health is as important as physical wellbeing.

    Tony Adams found redemption by starting his sporting chance clinic which does wonderful work not only for addictions but also mental health.

    Mental health problems can occur at any time and can afflict anybody. The stars of film and sport are no different but social media which can be so destructive heightens this.

    We are social creatures so to be confined in the way that we are is difficult enough, but to be alone must be dreadful. Most of my circle of family and friends are calling each other more, or using Zoom and FaceTime which have been a godsend. Not everyone is so lucky

  3. footballers are humans too thus they do suffer from home sickness, mental illness and etc..

    most fans if not all thinks human players are identical to those in Fifa20

    score as when or how they like and more

  4. All the money in the world doesn’t mean you are going to be happy.
    Sometimes people living on the street can be happier than these footballers,
    It must be the looneless place on earth when you are getting booed by 60,000 people when your being subbed..

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