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Yohan Cabaye’s depression battle raises scheduling concerns

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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.

College Soccer Update: Stingy Kentucky picking up speed; Cal Poly’s overhead wonder (video)

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Three-hundred thirty-two minutes and 26 seconds. That’s how long it’s been since an opponent has managed to put a ball into the goal behind the University of Kentucky men’s team.

It’s a statistic which not only makes an impression, but carries hope; Hope that the Wildcats will improve upon last season’s tournament work that saw them exit their conference tourney and the NCAA tournament early.

“If you go back to last year we had a really good run, but got knocked out in our conference tournament and then in the first round of the NCAA Tournament,” said fourth-year head coach Johan Cedergren. “Peaked too early and got a little overconfident.”

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The Wildcats are atop Conference USA with a 3-0 record in league play, having knocked off a strong New Mexico side this weekend. They’ll face Evansville and Ohio State the following two Wednesdays before meeting fellow CUSA 3-0 squad South Carolina.

It’s all according to plan for Cedergren, who is experiencing the senior years of his first recruiting class. One of those is goalkeeper Callum Irving, who is one clean sheet away from making program history for the most blankings as a Wildcat.

It’s helped having a versatile team to help out. Despite injuries to a pair of key backs, junior center back Jordan Wilson and senior holding mid Kristoffeer Tollefsen have combined with Irving to keep the side well-organized.

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“Over here you are very stat focused and Callum wouldn’t have these numbers without (Wilson),” Cedergren said. “And Tollefsen plays that holding mid role that is very hard to quantify. He made third team all conference last year, but he’s one of the best players and he’s playing at 75% percent.”

Cedegren also credits Hermann Award watch lister Napo Matsoso, who leads the team in shots, with keeping teams off-balance. And between Irving and the attack, the coach hopes that this season is the year the Wildcats will peak at the right time.

Three stars

  1. Oregon State — The Beavers opened PAC-12 play with a pair of 1-0 wins, knocking off UCLA with a Timmy Mueller (remember the name goal) before knocking off San Diego State by the same score. Next weekend? Cal and Stanford, both on the road.
  2. Nick DePuy, UCSB —  The 6-foot-4 junior forward has only been held off the score sheet thrice this season, and fired off 10 shots including three goals this weekend. Two were road game-winners at UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge.
  3. Chase Minter, Cal Poly — All three stars stay on the West Coast, thanks to Minter’s work setting himself up for this bicycle kick goal.

Other notes

— Creighton is back as the unrivaled No. 1 in the country amongst men’s Division I sides, claiming all 24 votes.
— Only one change in the Top 10, as Virginia moves up a spot to No. 10 and Elon falls three spots to No. 13. Leaping into the Top 25 after not receiving any votes last week is Oregon State. Kentucky, Butler and Syracuse move from receiving votes to Top 25.
— There s a single player who is in both the D-1 Top Ten in goals and assists, and his name will be familiar to those who read this space: Buffalo’s Russell Cicerone has eight goals and six assists after a 2+3 performance at St. Bonaventure on Saturday night.
— Also No. 1: Midwestern State (Men’s D2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D3), North Carolina (Women’s D1), Gannon (Women’s D2), Messiah (Women’s D3)

Samir Nasri rules out return to France squad; Likes MLS over Ligue 1

Manchester City's Samir Nasri celebrates after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park Stadium, Liverpool, England, Sunday Aug. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Photo/Jon Super
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When Samir Nasri is done with his time at Manchester City, he doesn’t want a return to Ligue 1. We knew that. He’s said it in March, and again over the summer.

But his willingness to stay away from home goes for club and country, as he’s not interested in a return to the national team fold. Heck, they could hire his family and he’s scoff at the idea.

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Nasri played in Marseille from his age 10 year through 2004, when he headed to Arsenal. He also scored five goals in 41 caps before being removed from the French fold by Didier Deschamps.

That hurt.

From Sky Sports:

“Even if my dad is coach, I will not return,” he said on French television. “I’ve suffered with the selections… missing a World Cup destroys you a bit. After 2012 I wanted to stop but my father told me I had to play the World Cup. I tried to be good.

“I do not see myself returning to Ligue 1. I love the Premier League. I like my life in England,” said Nasri. “I see myself going to play in the MLS, to discover something other than France.”

That makes at least three times Nasri has proffered a “come get me… eventually” plea to American powers-that-be.

Nasri is a bit of a loose cannon, but he’s also the sort of player who could punish defenses in MLS if given the chance to operate as the focal point of an attack. Perhaps with Didier Drogba in Montreal?

No, his time at the Etihad Stadium isn’t nearing an end just yet but… Yes, please. Maybe Nasri is one of those “In the league but not at the risk of my favorite team” players, but yes, please.