‘Computer gaming addiction is football’s silent epidemic’

    When you think of addiction, the first things that come to mind are gambling, alcohol and drug abuse. The footballers of the centuries have not been left untouched to fall into any of these opponents’ reactions – some of the best players to ever reach the pitch, George George, Diego Maradona and Paul Gascoigne to name a few.

    But there is an addiction, previously considered a harmless piece of entertainment, that is becoming a serious issue among professional footballers of all levels – an obligation to play computer games.

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    “It’s the silent football epidemic,” athlete psychotherapist Steve Pope told Reuters. “Any footballer can not be tested for they like.

    “Trying to get out of control of a gambling addict is like taking a bottle of whiskey away from an alcoholic. It’s just as big a problem with drugs and alcohol abuse.

    “The players have spent two or three days in a row playing. They urinate in the bin in their room, so they do not have to get up. It is a national problem, but footballers are even more vulnerable due to their nature “.

    Technology has advanced to unprecedented levels to make games like Fortnite and FIFA an exciting experience where you can compete online with people around the world.

    And it is this competitive element that created such a problem among footballers and saw the Pope’s workload increase threefold during the COVID-19 blockades.

    “We will see these players transformed into warriors from the age of six – everyone wins, wins, wins, we create them to pursue a high,” the pope added.

    “If it’s a team game like Fortnite, against others, it’s Pandora’s box. Footballers are bred to do this kind of competition.

    “The lock has made things much worse. Do not wait for the drug dealer, open your console and get your high. I have not found the lock, it has become bedlam.”

    The so-called gambling disorder was only reported as a mental health condition by the World Health Organization in 2018, while in October 2019, the NHS in the UK launched the first National Gambling Disorder Center to treat patients between the ages of 13 and 25.

    It is therefore difficult to gather national data, as it has recently been recognized as a serious issue, but with more and more sufferers coming forward, such research is coming.

    “We usually help people with more common addictions such as gambling and we do not yet have specific sessions for computer games, but these will be released very soon,” said Alex Mills, head of training at Sporting Chance, a charity. England’s Tony Adams to support athletes in various mental and emotional health problems, he told Reuters.

    “Instead of going to football clubs, they ask me to talk about gambling. They would not say that if they did not believe it was a problem.

    There are athletes who come to us who may not say “we have a problem with computer games”, but when we talk to them it becomes clear that the issues that come to us, such as the breakdown of the relationship, have been significantly affected by behavior, such as spending too much time in a computer game. “

    The amount of time that footballers spend on these games, often very much at night, is what made the clubs start to take into account.

    “If someone plays for 10 hours straight, often every day, they do not eat properly and their sleep is affected,” said Jeff Whitley, a former Manchester City midfielder and now executive director of the Professional Players’ Association (PFA).

    “If they do that, their bodies will not let them perform the way clubs want them to, which makes clubs more sensitive.”

    The computer game companies themselves, the Pope insists, have played their part.

    “Gambling companies are disinfecting things,” the pope added. (Tottenham Hotspur’s) Dele Alli and Harry Kane were paid to play games. Could a football club forgive a player who advertises whiskey now? No, so why advertise gambling? “

    Attitudes change, given the effect it has on player performance, much to the relief of those advocating greater awareness.

    “Ten years ago, it was considered a joke by a club, but Fleetwood Town (English Tier 3), with which I used to work, took it seriously,” says Papas.

    “We kept it under control and received four offers in five seasons. Funny, the only player who ignored it (gaming) was (Leicester City striker) Jamie Vardy. He said he played his game on the pitch.

    “We used to laugh so much, but now the clubs, from the Premier League, are finally starting to see the light. It took a while to get here. “

    The problem, however, does not go away.

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