Manchester United star Paul Pogba on what it’s like to live with depression as an athlete: ‘We’re not superheroes – we’re human beings’

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World Cup winner Paul Pogba says high salaries don't mean athletes don't sometimes struggle with depression. (PHOTO: Getty/Gallo images)
World Cup winner Paul Pogba says high salaries don't mean athletes don't sometimes struggle with depression. (PHOTO: Getty/Gallo images)

They may earn salaries that make our heads spin, but that doesn't stop athletes from having mental health problems. That's the message from Manchester United footballer and member of the French national team Paul Pogba, who's opened up about suffering from depression.

The 2018 World Cup winner was speaking to French publication Le Figaro ahead of the team’s friendly match with South Africa next Tuesday when he revealed that he’s experienced depression  “several times in his career”.

“I’ve been through it, but we don’t talk about it. Sometimes you don’t even know you have depression; you just want to be isolated, to be all alone. These are the unmistakable signs,” he says.

“You ask yourself if there’s something wrong with you, because you’ve never experienced these moments in your life,” the French star added.

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Pogba became the most expensive footballer in history when he joined British club Manchester United for a then record fee of €105 million (R1,58 billion) in 2016.

The 29-year-old player earns a reported weekly salary of £290,000 (about R5,5 million), making him one of the highest-paid athletes in the world. But he points out that the income athletes earn doesn’t necessarily spare them from the clutches of depression.

“Of course we earn a lot of money and we don’t complain, really. But that doesn’t prevent you from going through these moments in your life – like the whole world – which are more difficult than others. In football it (admitting to depression) isn’t acceptable but we’re not superheroes, we’re only human beings,” he adds.

Manchester United star Paul Pogba. (PHOTO: Getty/G
Pogba has endured a frustrating five years at Manchester United and says he battled several bouts of depression. (PHOTO: Getty/Gallo images)

Being a top athlete and earning millions in salaries and sponsorships has only added to the pressure of being an athlete under the scrutiny of millions. This has increasingly been highlighted in the past few years, with several athletes opening up about their mental health issues.

Last year, tennis star Naomi Osaka made headlines around the world when she pulled out of the French Open after she was told she couldn’t participate without doing interviews with media. The young player took to social media to explain her decision not to participate in post-match interviews, citing her struggles with anxiety and depression.

“The truth is that I’ve suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I’ve had a really hard time coping with that,” she wrote.

“Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I want to apologise especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I’m not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.”

Naomi Osaka pulled out of the 2021 US Open. .(PHOT
Tennis star Naomi Osaka has also opened up about her anxiety during large media events. (PHOTO: Getty Gallo images)

In 2019, Prince William teamed up with soccer stars Thierry Henry, Danny Rose and Peter Crouch as well as England football team manager Gareth Southgate in a documentary called Mental Health Team Talk. The aim behind the initiative was to help athletes understand mental health and encourage dialogue.

Sources: TheGuardian, Skynews, SoccerLaduma, DRUM

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