ZURICH, Switzerland, December 6, 2023/APO Group/ --
The Real Oviedo player decided to stop playing on 12 September to take care of his mental health; He hopes to serve as an example to teammates and other players; The Spaniard emphasises the importance of talking about mental health, and encourages those in need to #ReachOut (https://apo-opa.co/47YIBPf).
In 2021, FIFA launched the #ReachOut (https://apo-opa.co/47YIBPf) campaign with the aim of raising awareness of the symptoms of mental health. At its core, the campaign encouraged people to seek help when they need it.
This message was exemplified recently by Real Oviedo player Víctor Camarasa. On 12 September 2023, the club announced that the player was taking a break from football.
"From this moment on, for an undetermined period of time, he will be on the side lines of the first team for the sole purpose of taking care of his mental health," the Spanish club announced in its statement, giving full support to the player.
"Whether you're inside or outside of the pitch, we're under a lot of pressure in football. In my case, I was putting myself under too much pressure” the former Levante, Alavés, Betis and Cardiff City player said to FIFA.com/Inside (https://www.FIFA.com/inside). “I think it's really important that FIFA is trying to help as mental illness needs to be normalised.”
Camarasa is now 29 years old. He was an Under-21 international with Spain and made his La Liga debut at the age of 20. His biggest test however was the cruciate ligament tear he suffered with Betis in August 2020 which kept him side-lined for more than six months and was followed by surgery on the patellar tendon in the same leg.
To talk to Víctor today is to talk to a player who is gradually regaining his smile, both in his daily life, and on the pitch. His decision should serve as an example to anyone who thinks he or she needs help.
"The complicated thing is taking the first step," he said, recalling his feelings on 12 September.
"In this sport, as in many others, we must start treating mental illness in a comparable way to any other injury. if you have to stop, you have to stop. Do not fear what people will say. It's still seen as rare when someone needs to stop playing" he points out, trying to dismantle the stigma still surrounding mental illness.
Conversation moves onto the importance of talking, of asking for help, particularly in the football industry with its global profile. It’s a factor that has driven him to become an inadvertent ‘spokesman.’
"When you have a serious injury, you need support from those around you as sometimes you can feel very low” he explained. “Players are role models to many, and always in the spotlight. If we can help in some way to show we’re all the same, and stories like mine can have a positive impact on people, then it's a big step forward."
When Camarasa decided to stop, he stepped away from football completely. He is proud of his decision, though with an important nuance. "The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about it, is that maybe I should have stopped even earlier.
"I've been through some very difficult times. When i've been injured and out of the game, it's important to have support. Awareness campaigns from organisations like FIFA can really make a difference." Victor Camarasa, Real Oviedo player.
"Feeling that I couldn't cope with the situation any more though made me say 'enough'. I couldn't react rationally to day-to-day situations. Before that point, I’d never contemplated stopping because I was unwell. “We all have bad days, but when it's day after day and you get home and you're half 'dead'... this made me take the decision together with the club and the doctors. You have to try to recognise there is a problem, and express what is happening, whether it's with the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist” he reflected.
After a few weeks away from the team, on 2 October he returned to training with his teammates. Another 'step’ forward was when he returned to the Carlos Tartiere Stadium pitch on 7 October. "It was a huge joy. When I came on to warm up, all the fans applauded me. They also wanted to see me back on the pitch, enjoying myself and being happy. I was thrilled and I only have words of thanks" he continued.
Throughout his period away from the game, Victor’s club also played a significant role in his recovery. "At Real Oviedo, and as part of the Grupo Pachuca – where we have been working with sport psychologists - we are very aware of mental health, and we equally support FIFA's #ReachOut campaign" said General Manager Agustín Lleida. “We are always at the player's side. We see Victor as a person first, and a footballer second.” Looking back on his recent experience, Víctor is thankful for all the support he has received. In conclusion, he has a message that he trusts will reach those who need it.
"I am lucky, to do what I like. It seems that we (as footballers) have everything we could want, but I am also just a human, like everyone else. This illness can affect anyone, and if you do get ill, accept it, and please seek help."
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FIFA.