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Man City defender Akanji speaks to a mental coach before every match

There is an increasing awareness of mental health within football. The breaking of this former taboo is due to footballers speaking openly about the mental pressures they experience from playing football and today’s media, especially the huge role of social media. Parallel to the rise of mental awareness, footballers are increasingly engaging a mental coach for guidance, including Manuel Akanji, who spoke to GQ about the crucial support he experiences.


Coping with criticism

The current defender of Manchester City explains his relationship with the mental coach. ‘’I’ve worked with him now for two or three years. I can call him whenever I need something, but mostly I talk to him before games for 10 minutes: About how the week was, if I’m going to play or not, what my goal is for the game, what’s expected of me, maybe something about my opponents. Then he gives me some input as well, and that’s about it. It’s not a long phone call, but it’s a routine that I have’’, says Akanji, who played for Borussia Dortmund in the past. Akanji was one of the few players who was really scrutinised at the German side. ‘’I never reacted to it, because that’s what people want. I never gave them the chance to have my attention. If you’re trying to talk bad to me, maybe something’s not going well in your life. I’m not going to watch a tennis match and then text a player, You played like shit today. It’s none of my business. Maybe he didn’t have a good day or he just wasn’t at his best, and that’s normal as a professional. Everyone has bad days at their job. You can have this mindset for yourself, but you don’t always have to share your opinions with everyone else. So I just don’t react. I think it’s the best way to handle it.’’

And although the Swiss powerhouse talks openly about his mental support, other players don’t always feel comfortable expressing themselves openly on this subject. ‘’I know that other professionals do it as well. I don’t know if everyone likes to talk about it, but for me, it’s not a big thing. I don’t mind talking about it. It’s something that helps me, so why not share it?’’

Busy times at the Akanji family

Besides the right guidance, there is another remedy against the pressure. ‘’I have my kids – it’s enough! When I come home after games sometimes, or if I had a bad day at training, I come home and I see them, and it’s enough distraction. The younger one is one and a half and the other one turns four in a couple of months. Busy times.’’

Earlier, we highlighted the story of André Schürrle, who lost joy and decided to quit the world of football, and then became a life coach himself.