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The travails of footballers who don’t make the matchday squads
When footballers return to their respective clubs in July, they are eager to reacquaint themselves with the top level of performance that drifts away following the one-month hiatus. Pre-season represents an opportunity for a new start, new targets for the season. Yet, it also comes with its fair share of insecurities for some footballers.
Your football club will look to strengthen in the transfer market by acquiring the services of new players which means it has to shed others to balance the books.
The friendship and camaraderie among teammates are put to the test as friends compete for the available spaces in the team list. Quite literally, its survival of the fittest.
When the league commences in September, players line up down the tunnel and walk onto the pitch and the old sensations return. Those sensations before kick-off are a testament that the hard work you put in during preseason was worth it.
This is what footballers live for. Yet, the beginning of the new season doesn’t bring a ray of sunshine or joy in the heart of every player.
While the focus lies on a fresh start, aspirations, and dreams, some players aren’t afforded that start. While preseason sees all the players take part in buildup games thanks to meritocracy, the cold truth is that hierarchies soon take shape. Some players will cement their positions in the starting lineup while others will feel less secure. Of course, coaches will focus on the regulars.
There are only 18 slots up for grab in every matchday teamsheet. This leaves almost a dozen of disappointed and disenchanted players.
Training and not getting picked on matchday but still receiving a fat paycheck gives the impression that the footballers have it all rather cushy. Well, ‘You’re earning for doing nothing? Perfect job’. This is one the popular myths among the uninitiated and narrow-minded folks out there. It’s a detrimental stereotype that births hatred in society. Yet the reality is different. Footballers find joy when they are playing. Based on Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs, footballers like all human beings need to feel cherished, treasured and loved.
Footballers have to continue training or regress further into oblivion. To accept exclusion without a fight is to welcome decline to manifest itself. Therein kick starts a difficult sequence: Work your socks off at the training ground to improve and make an impression on the coaches. But in doing expose yourself to further marginalization. The reality is that the more work you put in to achieve success, the more you will need an acknowledgment for it.
Scientific research findings reveal that marginalization triggers the dorsal anterior cingulated cortex (dACC) in the human brain. The mental effects are unsurprising. It is an open secret that feelings of insignificance can alter behavior. This may lead to poor social relationships, paranoia, isolation, and low self-confidence. Confidence, in particular, is such a key ingredient to achieving top performance. Thus, if an opportunity knocks on the door, those players are less mentally ready to grab it.
Here’s an excerpt from Aaron Lennon’s interview with the Daily Telegraph. It reveals that it was his exclusion from matchday squads that resulted in his eventual decline and mental health problems.
“You start getting to that stage where you don’t actually feel like a footballer,” Lennon said. “You train throughout the week and you’re not involved at the weekend, then it becomes difficult. So that was tough. For me, not playing at the end of the week, you’re going home not a happy person and you’re not enjoying it.”
So what’s the solution? Well, there’s no ready answer or in fact no solution at all. Top-flight football has been and will always be a competitive sport. It’s never a school sports day where everybody scoops a prize. Coaches are not in the business of pleasing people or else they might face the sack. The solution lies in support for those players who don’t get into matchday squads.
Footballers are hardwired not to show any symptoms of weakness. This presents a major problem. Mental health issues associated with falling down the pecking order continue to exacerbate. Any tantrums might further restrict their prospects of getting involved on match day. The belief is that the discussion is changing. Sympathy and continued motivation from coaches, fellow players and fans for all those footballers who aren’t involved is the way to go. Remember: money is no blanket against psychological issues.
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