Laura Georges: Pressure on players can be huge
France FA General Secretary calls for more compassion and understanding
Ex-France defender says sharing experiences of elite players will help society to accept mental health conditions
Georges: “Pressure within women’s football is steadily increasing”
Laura Georges excelled at the highest levels of women’s football, establishing herself as one of the all-time greats at Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon. The three-time French Cup champion and two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League winner credits, in no small part, her mental agility with her success. Georges believes, however, that the industry could show greater compassion and understanding towards players who struggle with symptoms of poor mental health or find processing their emotions in such a high-pressure environment difficult. “I think that the pressure in women’s football is steadily increasing,” Georges told FIFA.com, in support of FIFA’s #ReachOut campaign. “The sport is becoming more and more international, with more transfers taking place, so the pressure to succeed can cause strain.” Following a 17-year playing career, Georges is now General Secretary of the French Football Federation (FFF), and is passionate about raising mental health awareness among the players of today. She remembers seeing a team-mate who carried visible signs of her burdensome troubles, and how difficult it was to see someone struggle.
“I witnessed one case of this sort of mental anguish,” she explained, “which involved a player who couldn’t express herself to the rest of the squad. She’d cry after matches and had some really tough times. "Off the pitch, she’d beat herself up for everything. From what I could tell, she felt that every bad result was down to her own shortcomings. It’s tough to see someone in distress, who doesn’t understand what is happening to them, or is unable to express it.” While football can be hugely beneficial for social inclusion, boosting self-esteem and making valuable friendships, Georges explains how the pressure at higher levels risks outweighing the benefits for some players. “We used to just play for fun, alongside our work or our studies, but some girls earn a living from football these days, so they have to perform,” the former defender, who played in three FIFA Women's World Cups™, said. “I think many athletes are afraid of being alone, or of being the only ones who are suffering. We don’t mind discussing a poor result but aren’t always comfortable talking about stress, about it being a struggle to play.” It is Georges’ hope that discussing the problems experienced at the top level of football can help everyone, from all around the world, to understand how mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time. “It can be hard to put it into words and admit that you’re depressed, for all of us,” she said. “Above all, you must not hesitate to reach out. You are not alone. "We all go through tough times, including players at the highest level. Problems like self-doubt, anxiety, stress and depression – they're things we all experience to one degree or another. And we do not always understand them. But what is most important, is being ready to talk about them.”
Befrienders Worldwide Befrienders Worldwide provides help and support to those in distress or suicidal, around the world. Visit https://www.befrienders.org/ and https://www.befrienders.org/other-helpline-organisations to find support in your country. Please note, while every effort is made to ensure information is accurate, FIFA is not responsible for the content of external websites. If you are in immediate danger, please call your local emergency services.
Support for professional football players can be accessed through FIFPRO.