South African Football Association (SAFA) chief medical officer Dr Thulani Ngwenya believes that Premiership clubs need to keep tabs on their players’ mental health by employing sports psychologists to ensure the well-being of footballers, both on and off the field.
Isolation and a change in routine can affect the players’ mental health and according to Dr Ngwenya, clubs should consider taking extra steps to protect their players’ state of mind amid and post Covid-19.
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) created a Biological Safe Environment (BSE) in Gauteng in August that housed all 32 PSL teams for six weeks in order to complete all remaining fixtures.
“The players are stronger than what they think they are because the PSL Bio Bubble was like in prison, it was greater than the alert level 5, maybe it was alert level 8 if there is something like that,” Ngwenya told the South African Football Journalist’s Association (Safja).
“It was tough, imagine going to play and losing a match and going back to the hotel and being confined in a small space and you are alone, you have to be alone, you can’t then mix and be with other team players, you can’t go out and have a chat with someone who is outside football and try and relax yourself.
“There is a great psychological issue that came with that but most of the players and teams emerged. It might have affected, I strongly believe some teams but most of them emerged because they still went to play the next game.
“So it means that the players are very resilient, they are stronger than what they believe they are,” added SAFA’s chief medical officer.
Sports psychologists are trained and equipped to work in high-performance environments to deal with a variety of performance issues but also mental health and well-being issues of athletes.
“We need to maybe move and I am feeling strongly about this, it is about time that we include sports psychologists in our teams because they would really assist in quite a lot of aspects and helping our teams going forward.
“What I learned in the PSL Bio Bubble is that there is nothing impossible for South Africans, especially when they work together,” concluded Ngwenya.
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi