Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin has revealed that he turned to alcohol to help cope with the mental strain of his knee injury.
The 26-year-old Spaniard suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2019, which ended up keeping him out for the rest of the season as he recovered from surgery.
Speaking to social media presence ‘
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’, Bellerin explained that he was thrown into the deep end when faced with the best part of a year without football.
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“It was the first time that I had got injured like that, and I had friends and teammates that had gone through it before, I had my family next to me, but I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen to me,” he said.
“I didn’t know if those doubts in my head were normal. I feel like I would have loved to have watched that before I got injured. I feel like now it’s an opportunity for people to do that, and if that helps them in any way and shows them that when you do it, it feels like the end of the world, but 9 months down the line, you’re fine.”
Bellerin then recalled how other players and his coaches warned him off drinking as he was making his way back to full fitness.
“I was trying to be as honest as I could and everything that really went through my mind. I talk about an experience when I came back and I wasn’t really training, and I started going out a lot, I started drinking and all this stuff and you know for a footballer that’s not what you’re supposed to say but it’s the truth,” he said.
“We have our issues, we have our mental health problems. And when football, which is basically your identity, gets taken out of you, we find it difficult. Obviously London is a town that offers a lot of distractions and it’s really easy when you don’t feel you have a responsibility – obviously I knew I had to recover, but I didn’t have to train or play – my mind kind of just went elsewhere.
Hector Bellerin (L) vies with James McArthur (R)
Image credit: Getty Images
“I was lucky enough to have players and coaches who knew what I was doing, and they said ‘look Hector, that’s not the right way to do it’, and I felt so lucky about that.
But also I’m not ashamed of it, I feel like it’s what happened to me and it’s just the way I was feeling and for me that was the best way of coping with my feelings, which is obviously not the best anyway, you don’t help anything, you just delay it.
“But that’s how I felt like doing then, and I thought I could get away with it and I learned so much from it. Now the last thing I do when I have an injury is drink because I know how bad that is. Sometimes you just don’t care or it’s difficult.”
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Bellerin then explained that he had used the coronavirus lockdown to take the chance to discover a routine and focus on his own mental health.
“Quarantine has been amazing for me, because I never had a routine, because I always see myself as someone spontaneous. Spanish culture is very like that,” he said.
I decided to set up a routine, same thing every day at the same time. My meals, bedtime, waking up. And that fully changed how I felt.
“It was hard, good in many ways, learned so much. Been so tough for so many people and I have a lot of empathy and feel for people. I spent a lot of it alone and it was a challenge, and I really struggled with my mental health at times, but it gave me time to pause which I haven’t done probably since I joined Arsenal.
“Before Covid hit I already wasn’t in a good place mentally, a bit personal and professional. I came back from the injury. I was still feeling I wasn’t 100%, and quarantine gave me time to work on my leg, I’ve been able to play three games in a week which I couldn’t before quarantine. So I already wasn’t in the best place before the pandemic hit.”
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