FT World Cup Focus: Players vs The Mental Side of Football

PENALTY! It is this one to win it for Ghana and they will make it to the semifinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Asamoah Gyan steps up to take the last kick of the match. 1-1 is the scoreline against Uruguay. The referee gives the greenlight…OH…HE MISSES!

This event sparked the abusive attacks that the player received in person and on social media blaming him for his country’s elimination from the tournament in the quarterfinals. The whole continent of Africa was rooting for Ghana to go all the way and they were on the verge of a record-breaking semifinal place for an African team only for him to mistakenly hit his shot against the crossbar and fail to score. What many might not know is what the player went through after walking off the pitch at the end of the penalty shootout. Asamoah Gyan’s confidence ran low. He also missed a great penalty for Ghana 2 years later at the 2012 African Cup of Nations against Zambia in the semifinals.

He said, “I'd like to apologize to the fans. It's been very difficult for me. I'd never miss a penalty on purpose. It's now two of the biggest penalties in my country's history and it's difficult to take. I've been unlucky. We all miss them. Fans should know it's not easy. (Didier) Drogba missed in the final. (Samuel) Eto'o has missed before. It's happened to the greatest before, I'm sorry.” He apologized deeply because he had received so much stick which could have caused depression.

Another player who eventually could not recover from this depression and psychological pressures that players experience as part of the game is Robert Enke. The German goalkeeper ended up committing suicide. His club’s president confirmed the Hannover player had been ‘unstable’ but it had not been noticed publicly. He left a suicide note after a culmination of a long struggle with depression which shocked the world of football. It is such extreme instances that brings sense to everyone that the players are also human. They experience a lot throughout their career and sometimes play with injuries just to avoid being attacked by the fans.

Just recently, Loris Karius of Liverpool was culpable for conceding two cheap goals in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid. He immediately apologized at the end of the match. Today I lost my team the game and I feel sorry for everyone.

“I’m sorry for everyone – from the team, from the whole club – that the mistakes cost dearly. If I could go back in time, I would. I feel sorry for my team. I know I let them down today,” Karius said in the post-match interview with talkSPORT.

Memes have already been created by his mistakes and he is dubbed treacherous.

Loris Karius of Liverpool breaks down in tears after defeat in the UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool on May 26, 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine.    

He is already being compared to Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples who betrayed him for a bribe in The Bible. Many former players have come out to ask the fans to show the player some love. Mistakes are part of the game and he never intended to give away a win when he was also fighting for the title. It was a dark day for the player and the fans in the stadium clapped him at the end of the match. Their reaction proves that they understood what he was going through as a person and we only wish for that to spread across the world.

The FIFA World Cup is commencing in less than 3 weeks and it is almost certain that someone will make a big error leading to a goal. There are some players that will be psychologically challenged and our duty as fans of the game is to spread love in our messages to show support to the people that sacrificed their lives to entertain us in each and every 90 minutes of play. STOP abusing the players. They are human. They are like you and me. Let us support the game!