Speaking on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, the former India captain revealed how acceptance of mental issues has helped Indian footballers grow.
Widespread societal acceptance of mental health issues and open discussions about it without the fear of being judged has been a boon for modern Indian football players, believes former India captain Gouramangi Singh.
Gouramangi Singh, who served the Indian football team for over 15 years, discussed how exactly the shift in perception about mental health has impacted Indian football during a chat with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on World Mental Health Day.
“It’s very good that players and coaches are open about the mental challenges that they face nowadays,” Gouramangi said.
“We now have professionals who are there to help with these things, and they can be crucial to help players grow in their footballing careers,” he added.
The 34-year-old Gourmangi, who is currently the assistant coach of I-League aspirants Bengaluru United, also noted that the situation was very different at the time he was playing as a professional player even a few years back.
“Earlier people were not so open about such things. If you were facing such issues, or if you were uncomfortable with certain situations, you would mainly have to fight it out yourself,” he stated.
“But now people have realised that there is no shame in admitting that you are having difficulties in dealing with certain situations. This is a big step.”
The former player also opined that grooming a player to be mentally tough becomes particularly important at the time he or she is breaking through into the senior levels.
“When I graduated from the Tata Football Academy and started playing football at the senior level, it was obviously difficult. Everyone was suddenly expecting results from you. The scouts picked you for a certain reason, and if you don’t fulfil that, it could get tough,” Gouramangi said, citing his own example.
“This is where the mental strength of a player comes into play. If he can realise early on what his strengths and weaknesses are, he can survive and flourish. Mental strength, at this stage, could make or break a player,” he added.
With the uncertainties and apprehensions arising due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, mental health in sports, perhaps, has become more important than ever before.