In case you’re wondering why the world’s best footballers always seem to be found playing outside their home country, it’s because the beautiful game can be extremely lucrative. Especially nowadays, with transfer fees and astronomical wages in the modern game making even a moderate player extremely wealthy. A lot of footballers around the world have become so rich and famous that simply being a footballer is no longer sufficient. Many have gone on to carve out successful careers in politics, business, and other walks of life. The modern footballer has become a brand and a symbol of an individual’s success. Much like a pop star or movie star today.
The attraction of the football money nexus is obvious: you have a great chance of being paid handsomely to perform on the pitch, which is what you live for as a footballer. Yet, the downside to this is that you’re often playing in front of throngs of fans, some of whom might hate your guts. In recent years, this has manifested itself in pitch invasions and riots, both of which were incredibly traumatic experiences for the players involved. It doesn’t help that many stadiums are simply not safe for players to wander off the field and feel comfortable enough to socialize with fans. It is a catch-22 situation: you can either pull in the crowds and the big bucks or be comfortable enough to socialize with your fans but watch your back on the street outside the stadium.
The Mental Health Toll
It’s no secret that professional footballers aren’t exactly known for being the most stable of people. The fame and fortune that they achieve at such a young age can often unsettle their equilibrium, causing them to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Around 20% of ex-professional footballers will meet the diagnostic criteria for a mental health disorder. That’s a lot of mentally ill people walking around with the keys to the city.
It’s also quite telling that many of these issues crop up when players hit the buffers of their career. Meaning that their body of work is done, they no longer have the desire or ability to train, and the slide into depression and addiction is often rapid and tragic. Especially when taking into consideration that many elite footballers also experience physical collapses and nerve-related injuries, which can further debilitate them. This is one reason why medical professionals and anti-doping organizations are so adamant that footballers should not be playing at a professional level.
An Unfair Playing Field
The other major issue with gambling in general and fixed football betting in particular is that it gives an unfair advantage to the better team. In a fixed game, the bookmakers have determined, in advance, how the game will likely play out. This makes a mockery of the true nature of the game, which is mostly determined by skill and luck. Especially when you consider that the majority of sports betting nowadays happens overseas, where bookmakers can quite easily manipulate the odds to their advantage. This is not an issue that plagues football alone; it affects all professional sports, and even some amateur sports, where teams can throw a couple of games and collect large sums of money, quite possibly affecting the outcome of the season. In most cases, the cheating is obvious to the casual observer. However, the true skill and luck of the game remains intact.
A Dangerous Addictive Cycle
Lastly, let’s not forget about the legal and moral questions that gambling raises. Simply put, unless you’re a full-time athlete being paid handsomely to perform in front of adoring fans, you’re probably breaking some sort of law. While it’s true that professional footballers, as mentioned before, are often the victims of depression, addiction, and other issues stemming from their fame and fortune, that doesn’t mean that all of them are. Some are just bad boys who bring this on themselves. After all, there’s nothing new about rich, famous footballers going missing or getting into trouble with the law. Just look at the list of notable people who have been abducted, abducted, or gone missing while on vacation in the United Kingdom.
In most cases, when these things happen, it’s usually because the person in question has become so obsessed with winning and money that they simply can’t see the error of their ways. Meaning that they often gamble away all of their hard-earned money, which, as mentioned before, can often result in them ending up in debt, penniless, and alone. If you or someone you know is being or has been affected by any of these issues, there are counselors and social workers available to help. Just remember to keep your head up and your chin on your chest. The most important thing is to keep fighting, because, ultimately, you’ll be bitter and angry at the world if you don’t.