By 90Min
July 19, 2017

It is too easy to forget that footballers are human beings. Many of us chatter on about how we're jealous of their lifestyles, jobs and of course money. For the majority of fans growing up, the unattainable prospect of being paid to play football seems like a dream. However, for those participating in the sport, it's not all roses. 

Steven Caulker, former Liverpool and Tottenham defender, is one of many who has felt the stresses of pursuing a career as a footballer. Speaking to the Guardian in a powerful interview, he revealed his career thus far has taken him through feelings of desperate anxiety and self-loathing, building up to the point of suicidal thoughts. 

Football is still adapting to the reality of mental illness. Earlier last month, Everton winger ​Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act amid concerns for his welfare - with the English winger undergoing treatment for a stress related illness.

Caulker revealed that he turned to gambling and drinking to numb the pain and take the immense pressure of football away. 

“I’ve sat here for years hating myself and never understood why I couldn’t just be like everyone else,” he said. “This year was almost the end. I felt for large periods there was no light at the end of the tunnel. 

"My way of dealing with it [pressure], even in the early stages of my career, was gambling. I’m an addict. I’m addicted to winning, which people say is a positive in football but certainly not when it extends to gambling.


"I was gambling heavily when I went back to Tottenham, staying up to crazy hours of the night in casinos. Being dropped rattled me even more because football was what I had relied on to make me feel better. So then the gambling was every single day. 

"The pain of losing all my money, combined with the shame and guilt, ate away at me. So I’d drink myself into oblivion so I wouldn’t have to feel anything. I was numb but I was out of control.”

Caulker also revealed the decision to leave Spurs put him in an even worse state, as when his QPR side were thrashed by his former club, the regrets ate away at him. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Steven Caulker of QPR in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Queens Park Rangers at Craven Cottage on October 1, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Jordan Mansfield/GettyImages

“I ended up at QPR that summer, 2014, trying to hold it together, but the trigger there came in the second game when we were thrashed 4-0 at Tottenham. 

"I’d made a big mistake leaving Spurs. I should have stayed and sorted myself out. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. It just pounded in my head: regret, regret, regret. From that moment I was gone, even if I never wanted to accept it, and everything just escalated. I’d go for days without sleeping. I don’t know how I survived it. That year was an absolute nightmare."

However, Caulker now believes he is in a much better state mentally, and he is aiming to prove he is capable of reaching his potential.

"Now I feel good mentally and I want the chance to show people, including my son, what I am truly capable of. Wherever the opportunity arises, I’m just thankful still to be alive.”

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