Four professional footballers are supporting this initiative designed to raise awareness and provide player unions with the necessary tools to offer timely help to their members.
FIFPRO research shows that up to 38 percent of footballers suffer from mental health symptoms during their career, and how during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the number of players experiencing difficulties increased.
The following players give video interviews that are part of the campaign:
- Australian player Adriana Jones talks about her fight with anorexia
- Former Czech national team player Martin Fenin opens up about his struggles with alcohol
- Uruguayan player Marcelo Tabárez discusses coping with cancer treatment
- Dutch national team player Liza van der Most talks about recovering from a serious knee injury
In recent years, the awareness for the emotional wellbeing of players has increased. However, FIFPRO also noticed that much work still needs to be done.
In a 2019 FIFPRO survey, a majority of players mentioned that mental health symptoms influence their performances negatively, but adequate help was lacking. Member unions also informed FIFPRO about a growing need for improved support.
To enhance the performances of players and their quality of life, FIFPRO has designed a programme which consists of two pillars:
- raising awareness among players and other stakeholders about mental health symptoms in professional football
- establishing referral networks of mental health professionals to provide players in need with adequate support
FIFPRO created a toolkit with the help of various mental health experts. It consists of an educative animated video to improve mental health literacy and various materials for meetings with players to educate them about symptoms, stressors, stereotypes and empathy. The information should help unions and players to timely identify when others might be struggling with mental health symptoms and provides them with basic knowledge how to act when this occurs.
“We strongly urge all player unions to set-up a referral network so that players in need can receive the right support from specialists,” said FIFPRO Chief Medical Officer Prof Vincent Gouttebarge.
Recently, FIFPRO held various workshops to train staff from member unions around the world on using the toolkit and to emphasise the importance of a referral network.
“The toolkit was very well received by our player unions,” Prof. Gouttebarge said. “We look forward to them using it effectively to benefit the wellbeing of players around the world.”