The mental health of Nigerian players, particularly, in the local leagues is a conversation that has managed to evade the front burners of improving welfare and developing the Sport.
Mental health is no longer a myth and the underlying issues as much as the remote causes for professional Footballers in Nigeria requires that it’s deserving the importance of a front and center attention.
It’s no secret, for years, footballers even those in Nigeria’s elite league division, have been treated like the rot of the bunch.
Unpaid wages, slavish contracts and the danger of traversing the quite dangerous country sides for League matches. The list is literally endless, career ending injuries, slumping to death on the pitch; to play in the NPFL you have to be built different.
Sad to read about the avoidable passing of Nassarawa United defender Chineme Martins in an NPFL game on Sunday.
And how can this be your emergency ambulance at a professional match if it requires stewards to push to start? We can do better, and we mustn't lose another life. pic.twitter.com/sw52XgHwFc
— Shola Opaleye (@SholaOpaleye) March 9, 2020
However, no professional should have to stare at the barrel of a gun; literally and figuratively, in the course of doing their jobs.
Although the actual figures do not exists, but it’s not presumptuous to say more than 90percent of players in the league have little or no access to a psychologist or have never received mandatory professional support after a major trauma on the job.
Watching a teammate lose their life during a live professional game can be crushing, in the same manner incurring debt and enduring domestic issues because salaries are unpaid for months unend is.
What then are the delibitating implications on the players themselves? Most resort to “any means” necessary to get by and no options are off the table.
Some have resorted to age falsification, drug use and in far extreme situations, crime as was the situation in 2021, when a former player attempted to hijack his former team’s bus carrying players on their way to honor a league match.
More recently, the situation of Oluwatosin Adegbite, who was cut from Nigeria’s squad to the Africa U20 Cup of Nations in Egypt after an injury, came to light.
Adegbite recalled how he hit rock bottom, and for weeks he suffered depression owing to the disappointment of missing the competition.
Only months before, he was captain of the Flying Eagles at the qualifying tournament in the WAFU B Championship.
An impressive player, who has seen an incredible rise in his career, but was now facing a bigger challenge than any Opponent had presented.
He spoke on Brila FM’s ‘The Big Interview’ about the mental battle.
“It was really painful, so much, that I had to ask my club for a break because mentally I was losing it,” the Enyimba FC defender recalls.
“I will not lie, I was losing it. I had to go for a month with my loved ones because I could not think straight.”
The compassion of Coaches, kith and kin, has been the coping mechanism as he attempts the gradual withdrawal, but it could have been different had the National team provided such services.
His is one of many in Nigeria, the country renowned for producing some of the biggest Athletes in world, most of whom rose from many such adversities.
Hence, it’s imperative that among other sweeping changes been instituted by the NPFL ‘s governing body, the IMC, and in the NFF, that provision for a functional National team and League level psychology department is commissioned.
Providing players – active and retired – professional medical help to cope with the mental toll as a direct result of the troughs and crests of their careers is long overdue.
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