Yohan Cabaye has revealed that he battled through depression last year after a physically and mentally draining term with Newcastle and the French National Team.
The midfielder, who spoke with French newspaper L’equipe during on international break, discussed how taking part in last summer’s Euro 2012 proved to be his breaking point.
“Depression? I’m not afraid to say that it was that…. Euro 2012 was my first big international competition and it’s completely different than what you’d experience in daily life at your club.”
The French international discussed how, despite a prolific first year at St James’ Park that included 4 goals and 6 assists in 34 league appearances, the pace of the Premier League was a difficult adjustment. Noting the absence of a winter break and the immediate impact of Euro 2012 just four weeks later, Cabaye said the schedule left him lethargic, uninspired and confused. “When I woke up I still felt tired and I wanted to think about something other than football,” Cabaye explained. “I asked myself a lot of questions, if you haven’t experienced it (depression) you cannot understand.”
The playmaker found solace by reading the books of Jonny Wilkinson and Rafael Nadal, who talked about post-competition depression and the need to have a break. Then, a November 2012 groin injury ended up being a blessing in disguise for Cabaye. “My injury allowed me to have some rest and meet friends and family in Lille. When I returned to Newcastle in December I knew I felt better, though I never talked about it to anyone outside my circle of friends and family.”
Having recovered from his bout, Cabaye insists that feels healthy, strong and is “keen to fight for the club.” More importantly, the Frenchman adds, “Now that episode is over I have much more fun in training sessions and I realize how lucky I am. I felt that enthusiasm could leave and that is the most dangerous thing.”
Cabaye’s decision to make his depression public not only humanizes footballers but also raises issues of how many players may be suffering from similar reactions to a brutal schedule – and saying nothing. Too often we forget that our heros on the pitch are real people who carry the same emotional and psychological burdens of any layperson.
Perhaps now, more than ever, the English FA needs to take a hard look at including a mid-winter break for player’s to recharge their batteries – both physical and mental. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where the tightening could occur – start and/or end the season a week early, work with FIFA to decrease the number of international breaks, or even, dare I say it, do away with the crap Capital One Cup (sorry, Swansea).
In the case of Cabaye, the break in action certainly seems to have worked. Before his time off he scored twice in 10 league matches but since returning this January he’s nabbed an incredible four goals in eight games.