When you think of addiction, the first things that come to mind are gambling, alcohol and drug abuse.
Footballers down the ages have not been immune to falling into either of those vice’s grips – some of the best players to have ever graced the pitch, George Best, Diego Maradona and Paul Gascoigne to name but a few.
But there is one addiction, previously seen as a harmless bit of fun, that is becoming a serious issue among professional footballers, of all levels – a compulsion to play computer games.
“It is football’s silent epidemic,” sports psychotherapist Steve Pope told Reuters. “Anything footballers cannot get tested for they love.
“You try get a computer controller off a gaming addict. It is like taking a bottle of whisky away from an alcoholic. It is just as big a problem as drugs and alcohol abuse.
“Players have been going two or three days straight playing games. They are urinating in the bin in their room so they don’t 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 immersive experience, where you can compete online against people all over the world.
And it is this competitive element that has created such a problem among footballers, and seen Pope’s workload increase by three times during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“We are going to see these players who have been turned into warriors from the age of