FIFPro, that's me
Claus Lundekvam: ‘Alcohol and cocaine nearly killed me’
Wednesday 04 July
Claus Lundekvam’s life changed after he retired as a professional footballer. The former player of the Norwegian national team tried to escape from his depression using alcohol and drugs. ‘It almost killed me.’
Claus Lundekvam (39) enjoyed a fine career as a professional footballer. The tall Norwegian started his career at Brann Bergen in his native country in 1993.
Three years later the central defender moved to Southampton in England, where he stayed until he had to say goodbye to professional football due to an ankle injury, in March 2008. He played 357 matches for The Saints and 40 games for the Norwegian national team.
‘I was lucky enough to play for so many years’, Lundekvam looks back. ‘I lived in England for 14 years and played professionally for 12 years. I feel incredibly lucky to have lived my dream through the English Premier League for so many years. It is very lucrative and a great lifestyle to live.’
Lundekvam hails the greatness of the English Premier League, but also remembers the pitfalls. ‘Football in England is so big: the atmosphere, the supporters. The media are so interested in covering your football club, or the English football in general. The pressure on the youngsters today is huge. I have seen so many youngsters - very, very talented youngsters - coming through the ranks, who are fantastic on the training ground, but cannot perform on a Saturday because there are 40,000 spectators in the crowd.’
‘For me, my life changed in so many ways when I signed a contract with Southampton to play Premier League football. So many challenges come with that, not only as a footballer, but also as a human being.’
‘These youngsters are becoming superstars overnight now - rightly so, they are very talented footballers. I think, the problem will come when that lifestyle is not there anymore for them. That is the biggest challenge, which I have experienced very closely myself.’
Lundekvam’s biggest challenge came after he had to quit his career as a professional footballer. ‘When you have been in football or in that lifestyle for that many years, to then all of a sudden overnight retire… Even if you think you prepare yourself for it, it is very, very difficult.’
‘I thought I was strong enough to deal with it. I wasn’t. I got very depressed.’
‘I didn’t miss the football. I missed the adrenaline of every Saturday playing in front of 30 to 60,000 people. It is the lifestyle and everything that comes with it: everyday going into training, the social part, the banter with the boys, all the fun. Overnight, it is all gone. It is very difficult to deal with.’
‘Because I had the money, I had the lifestyle, I started to drink - a lot, a lot more than I should have done.’
‘I can sit here as an alcoholic and as an addict myself and say I am very, very proud of what I did on the football pitch. But what I did afterwards … uhm … I nearly killed myself due to all the alcohol and cocaine.’
Lundekvam realized just in time, that if he were to continue taking drugs and alcohol like he had been doing, he would probably kill himself…
Fortunately, Lundekvam is still alive. Now, he is supporting an anti-doping and anti-drugs campaign created by the Norwegian professional footballers’ association NISO in collaboration with Anti-Doping Norway. He is warning footballers and other professional athletes against doping and the abuse of social drugs and alcohol.
‘It is very important to raise the awareness on what is needed to become a good footballer and stay away from drugs’, Lundekvam starts his explanation.
‘Focusing on social drugs is very important, because there are a lot of players using alcohol with cocaine today’, Lundekvam states. ‘I know a lot of cases of players using it while they are playing. Obviously they don’t know what the damage is that they can do, not only to their football career, but to their lives. Alcohol is one thing. If you start mixing cocaine into that, you won’t last very long as a footballer, I will promise you.’
‘End of the day a dose of cocaine can not only ruin your career. Often enough it will destroy you.’
Lundekvam continues: ‘I am an alcoholic and I’ve got an addiction. And I need to control that for the rest of my life. I need to monitor that. I need to watch that alcoholic - who is sitting on my shoulder - for the rest on my life.’
‘I can never sort of relax. I can learn how to handle my day, but the flashbacks from my bad time when I was using, will always be there for the rest of my life.’
‘Today, I am just very, very glad that I can sit here sober. The other thing I am very, very glad of doing now is helping others with these problems. I have been there myself, I know what I am talking about. Hopefully, I will help a lot of people, not only in sports, but in general, to get through these problems.’
About the campaign:
‘NISO and Claus Lundekvam have been the architects of the campaign. We got support from the Norwegian Anti-doping Agency. Recently the Norwegian Football Association also joined in on the project.’
FIFPro, that's me
FIFPro, that's me is a column in which FIFPro puts 50,000 professional footballers under the world's close scrutiny. What are the positive aspects of the profession? How do they survive in a footballing world that's occasionally difficult? What tips would they give to a professional colleague? What does the professional future look like after a footballing career? The footballer speaks: his story is also the story of FIFPro.
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