Inside Matters: Wober: Opening up to someone saved my career

17 May 2023
Max Wober

Leeds defender Max Wober says that speaking about his personal struggles has helped improve his mental health and wellbeing

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All Premier League fixtures from 6 to 15 May were dedicated to the #InsideMatters campaign, which reinforces the League and clubs' commitment to supporting the mental wellbeing of players, fans and those in communities.

Leeds United

"It was just an awful, awful time for me. Without opening up I would not be a footballer any more."

That is the stark reality of how close Leeds' Max Wober came to seeing a promising career destroyed by his mental health struggles.

"Every boy’s dream is to become a footballer and I made the dream come true," said former Rapid Vienna and Ajax defender Wober. 

"The first months [at Ajax] were amazing to play regularly in front of 50,000 people, this was my dream. Then a couple months in I got a first big injury and from there on everything changed a little bit for me."

Wober's recovery took longer than expected, and that was when his mental health started to decline.

"Suddenly I realised, 'OK, I'm on my own right now, I have no friends in Amsterdam, nobody I really know'," he explained.

"I just started to feel really lonely and tried to cover it a little bit when I was at the training centre. Football is like, a lot of testosterone in the dressing room, you always have to compete every day otherwise you're not going to be successful and showing the weakness is… sometimes you can get the feeling that it's not allowed.

"Putting on this mask towards the team-mates is I mean, it's pretty easy because you’re only there for a couple of hours and when you’re injured you don’t see them all the time, but as soon as I came home I was just home alone.

"I didn't even want to go out to buy groceries or whatever. So it was just coming home from training, laying on the couch, watching movies, fall asleep, watch movies, fall asleep, eat takeaway or something.

"Then at one point I just couldn't sleep any more. I was not open enough or strong enough to open up to somebody, and yeah, it was just an awful, awful time for me."

After speaking with his agent, Wober was encouraged to reach out and seek help. Talking and sharing his feelings proved to be the catalyst for an upturn in his overall wellbeing.

"The moment I really started to speak about things and open up, it was like a relief. It all came out like a waterfall."

Leeds United defender Max Wober

"The moment I really started to speak about things and open up, it was like a relief. It all came out like a waterfall," he said.

"Without opening up I think I wouldn't be a footballer any more. It's not only footballers, it’s everywhere, in every profession. There's people who come to work every day and just hide their feelings.

"It doesn't matter if you feel lonely, if you feel anxiety or whatever it is, it's important to open up and accept that we cannot deal with it by ourselves. 

"I think only talking about it, it helps and can make a difference in your life."

Support available

As part of the #InsideMatters campaign, the Premier League has collaborated with Shout, a free, confidential 24/7 text support service for anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope. The service was launched in 2019 and has since helped hundreds of thousands of people.

The Premier League and Shout have collaborated to offer support to Premier League fans in the UK. Anyone experiencing anxiety can text the word "TeamTalk" to 85258 to be connected with around-the-clock support from trained volunteers, supervised and supported in real time by an expert clinical team.

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