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The French National Union of Professional Football Players (UNFP) has decided to set up a telephone hotline system for listening to and counselling professional footballers who are suffering temporary psychological difficulties.


As Philippe Lafon, the UNFP Executive Secretary-General, explains, this help is aimed today at 'players in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, and at all those who are accompanied by Europ Sports Reconversion in their training and/or retraining process. We all know that the physical, moral and emotional balance of a player can be affected, resulting in a decrease in willingness or motivation, disturbed sleep, relationship problems, behavioural changes, addictions, not forgetting those incidents in life that are frequently so hard to bear.'


'In the professional world - and not just in football or in professional sport - it is never obvious that this kind of difficulty should be brought up, all the more so in such a competitive environment as ours. We aren't able to provide immediate responses or care, or to resolve problems with the wave of a magic wand, but we want to pay attention, and we must. Secondly, if the player so asks, we will be able to take our approach further with the help of our consultant physician, Doctor Gérard Saez, who will make it easier to contact competent medical outreach helpers.'


It's all in the mind (C'est dans la tête) is the name of this new UNFP service for players, and the cornerstone is of course respect for anonymity. 'Medical confidentiality is its very basis. Players must feel they are safe, and that they can call and talk in confidence.'


Calls, with full confidentiality, will be taken by a specialist office, the Centre d'Accompagnement et de Prévention pour les Sports (CAPS, Support and Prevention Centre for Sports) in Bordeaux, with which the UNFP has made a one-year agreement.


'The number to call is now shown in changing rooms, and we are going to run an information campaign with our various means that will remind everyone of our objectives and the facilities available. Everyone has to know and be familiar with It's all in the mind so that, whenever appropriate, they can respond to the need and fill the void.'